taking tests on desks filling in bubbles
on pieces of paper with pens

taking tests on top of naked bodies filling in time
on saturday afternoons with dangerous men

cheating on tests answers on backs of hands
eyes glancing on opposite desks

cheating on people trying to cheat out of being held
in his hands by glancing at clouds for answers not given

more not knowing not knowing the date
of the missouri compromise

not knowing where his hand is going
not knowing the answer to put or the choice to make

remembering that lincoln promised the south
that he would never free a single slave

remembering that you promised yourself you would be
never be a slave state and always be a maine

taking tests on compromise not just on our desks but on the
conflicting desire to be good to ourselves and great to somebody else

teachers handing back tests on a missouri comrpomise where you
compromised a grade to be told you could stay

boys handing back nothing at all

the absence of gradebooks the absence of red ink for those
who made the missouri compromise

but you think that they probably failed
and you probably failed, too,

or at least lost