portion of the artwork for Jamez Chang's poetry

Arm & Hammer
Jamez Chang

I was just fine,
before you brushed me under a manila folder.

Out of your office,
you came calling, sweeping the campus
for a prospective college student,
a West Quad away.

Re-examined my files,
the zip-lock baggie an RC delivered,
to You, the Director of Admissions,
a stranger, trained to see
all evidence of future performance:
the promise of white granules,
crystalline tropane alkaloid,
that purified extract from the leaves of the Erythroxylum—
coca bush.

But it wasn’t cocaine in my bag, Mr. Rhettfield;
It was Arm & Hammer baking soda.
I could explain myself better (and one day I will),
how, as a child,
I had a severe allergic reaction
to sodium monofluorophospate,
how toothpaste made my lips swell—
to this day.

But I’m hungover,
lying in this dormitory lobby,
at renovated wood-paneled floors,
elbows outstretched, cozy recess,
your alcove.
An entrance stairwell to Ivory & Acceptance,
close by,
within a criss-cross ceiling beam
Reach for the Sky, and
I already love it here.

But a manila folder opens, and
you stand above me, Mr. Rhettfield,
just above my choking grasp,
you pinch your glasses up a notch and
turn pages,
you hover,
a bus-station cop waking up the home-dead,
a baton doused in steel-ink,
crossing two t’s,
and you sign the order.
You use last names:

“Mr. Lim,
We hereby rescind our offer of admissions
to Amherst. Your behavior last night was
You’ll have to leave our campus.”

Prospective College Student Weekend is no occasion to
discard warm blankets and lunge at a stranger’s feet,
but I’m all out of options,
wrapping arms,
biceps to legs,
for You, The Director of Admissions,
I am using last names.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 39 | Winter 2013