things my report card should say


That although I am not the fastest learner, I am keeping up
appearances; I won’t be that sad girl at the back of the class
who just wants everyone to feel sorry for her. That although I don’t
always arrive on time, I am patient, staying in my seat long after
the bell has rung, waiting for traces of wisdom to float down on me
from the fluorescent-soaked ceiling, like kites retiring
after a warm summer day. That I am polite, and that my skirt
always falls below my knees as it should, and that at the very least
I don’t ask stupid questions. Not out loud.

That I work just as hard as the winners do.

That I don’t interrupt when the teacher is talking
(except for that one time, when a classmate leaned over
and told me how the boy I last kissed, kissed
another girl at a party, while hoots and whistles
blocked his guilt at the door, an unwelcome guest
to a celebration of reckless youth, and
as a joke I said, “Pics or didn’t happen,” and even if
there were no images presented to me like conclusions
to a science experiment, I knew
that the ones in my head were enough,
and the teacher raised an eyebrow, the universal code for I am
an adult, and you are a child, and you are pissing me off, and
asked, “Is there anything you want to share
with the rest of the class?” to which I replied,
“Ma’am, sharing is for sluts.”);
that I can forgive myself for trying and failing but never
for cheating, that I play fair, because some losses
are worth it, and there must be a reason
there is a less in lesson,
and an earn in learn,
that for all the hubris-brandishing and windmill-tilting pegged 
on kids my age, I beg to differ: I know my place.

First, that I care
about our culture and history,
the economy, a progressive society that gives
more than it can get, all that serious shit.
Second, that I care
about the periodic table and the square root of pi,
about the least common denominator, about Shakespeare,
Kant and Freud, and everyone who fancied themselves experts
on humanity, about Jupiter, Saturn, outer space,
galaxies entirely removed from ours. Third, that I care
but this doesn’t make me smart—it’s not that easy—it doesn’t
make me good. It doesn’t make anything. Last:
That I care, so much, too much, what people think, even when
I don’t need to, and especially when I don't want to.

That I work just as hard as the winners do.

That just because someone says I need improvement
doesn’t necessarily mean I have potential, that the ways
in which we are measured will never again be as concrete
or as clear as when our mothers and fathers tracked our growth
on door posts with pencil marks and pride;
that I am just desperate, please, for a higher
form of evaluation.