Howard Firkin
Her pain is unkind, kind of like her love.
I’ve felt this pain before when school was such a
baffling fucking carnival of noise and scam.
She tells me when to write and marks me down
for sticking to the word count.

I’m a fool, a clown,
my head is turning on its spindle, mouth
agape and waiting for her ping pong balls
to feed me empty, rattling, bouncing boings of nothing.
Check my score.

When I turned up here, pocket money in my hand,
you told me, looking in my eyes, you yelled it,
“Every player wins a prize!”
She checks my score—she’s quick:
“You lose. You want to play again?”

I thought I won a prize?
“Sure, take your pick:
the plastic key ring or the whistle.”
Walk away. Make way for hands with coin.
My own are full of nothing. Junk. The whistle never works.