Making Out is a series centered on how issues observed in the high school classroom by writer and teacher, Jess Burnquist, translate to daily life in the glare of parenthood and the shadows of nostalgia.
There are times when the focal points of teaching are so evocative that I can’t write about them in a linear way—when a synthesis of time and topic beg to be expressed like the snippets in which they occur. This past week was like that. Students completed the following assignment, and I responded as I should in class and on their assignments—but I responded to their most compelling thoughts after the fact and as I had to, here.
Imagine yourself years from now.
Then, write a letter from your future self to your present self all about love.
C’mon man. You’re alright. Don’t get too deep too fast. ~ Parker, 16
Beyond your teacher’s desk is a window
where tips of a palo verde tree
point at you—green branches tap tinted glass
rapping the syllables of her name.
You wring your hands, grab a pencil
and confess to the measured margins of your paper
about how in the autumn of your 16th year
your heart crawled out of its cage.
So stupid. All that pain—don’t give up, though. Love will find you and you don’t need him. ~ Allyson, 15
Perhaps you will take an impromptu bike ride—alone
a day after he kisses you because you still feel dizzy.
Pedals spin feelings you can’t name
and you feel powerful moving at this speed.
You think about power as you remove your hands from steel
handlebars to spread your arms until they form wings
flying for the space of three neighborhood blocks.
You are so in sync with all that is alive—you feel
more than you think as wheels carry you to your future.
Slowing down, you glance the sky to notice
how your heart lights up the moon.
I hope you have this shit figured out and that you finally tell someone you love them. ~ Levi, 17
Maybe it will be casual—you’ll almost mumble the words
at her back bringing her to a full stop. Or,
What if you risk everything
belting I love you from a stage.
I picture you with a determined look on your face
Your body in mountain stance—knowing
statement isn’t nearly as important as action.
How the world opens to you at the moment
this phrase finally escapes your throat.
The o’s forcing you to purse your lips
in anticipation of something other than anger
Your pulse ringing at last, at last, at last.
The way to get over someone is to get under someone else.~ Alyssa, 16
On Monday, you slammed and threw your copy
of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew
Announcing to the class that it was bullshit,
looked at me then waited for some kind of consequence.
The way you decided to stop being cool
Long enough to tell me why it was unfair.
Your surprise when I said, yes, you’re right
on the money about Petruchio’s tactics—his injustices are steep.
Listing them in a swell of passion, how profound
your connections between Katharina and your mother.
Am I in trouble, you wondered, for cursing in class