Lab Rats

Lab Rats

by Frank Van Zant

Not rodents, though verminous at times.
Not bewhiskered, but buzzcut to ef-
fect, orangetopped, dreadlocked.
Not bioethical victims, but court-
ordered, split-familied, body pierced.

Of whom teachers are jealous, they say,
‘cause they not gettin’ any,
don’t much get their dick wet, don’t
get mad pussy.

Sitting there
in their passive resistance, lab rats by day,
Persons-In-Need-Of-Supervision by night,
gnawing their pencils–if they bothered
to bring them.

One angry kid says to me
Hey V (my name, unMistered,
and condensed like a palm-fit boom box)
Hey V, what is all this
mind control shit, alla time
making us crawl the maze, psycho-
babbling at us, programming:
conform, conform!
I ain’t a fuckin’ lab rat.

Ahh, tension!
I try to break this, I sing

And though this is a pretty old song now
a couple of kids laugh.
The angry kid is kind of deflected.
We can study.

For the moment.

Still, what I didn’t say to the kid
in loco parentis
I want to say now (even without muscles, a weapon, some backup):

Hey, Dissing Dysfunctionals! Sorry motherfuckers!
What you’re selling in your head and on the streets is the SHIT,
what’s going to land your thickheaded ass in jail!
Where we’re gonna visit you in a couple of years!

You! You need BOOTCAMP, a meanass sergeant screaming at your
smug fucking face. Mr. Probation Man, you need that razorblade you tuck in
your hat
to scrape along your face at four in the fucking morning!
You need a shave, motherfucker! Hey Shock Talk! Hey Asshole! You shocked?
You don’t need drive-by bullets! You need bootcamp bullets whizzing over
your head!
You all need a music of Discipline in those deaf minds, your closed ears!

Then, while your scared Asses are shivering with fear,
while you’re digging your white knuckles into the prayerful womb of earth
while you’re trembling, trying to figure What does this life mean?
then, you need metaphor grenades, you NEED Szymborska you need Komunyakaa
you need Olds you need Oliver you need McDonald you need Green you need Soto
you need all the way back to Willy B. Bard Shake-A-Stick Speare and all the
way before that
you need Virgil you need Homer you need every poem, every poet, all the
poetry shit
you’ve ever closed your minds to


like Ali Baba, figure out the magic words,
string them together in a right way, take joy in the life that erupts from
seeds, words,
you need the metaphyical OPEN SESAME to wake your sleepyheaded sorry asses up

you need to get out of the prison of your mind, your caged
lab rat nightmare, your shackled, wasted, numbbrained youth!

Van Zant has taught near-dropouts for 14 years and has written many other poems related to students in his alternative school–white, black and Hispanic (dysfunctionality knows no racial boundaries).

Copyright © 2000 Frank Van Zant. All rights reserved. {jos_sb_discuss:9}

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