Friday, April 29, 2016

National Poetry Month--Coyote in High School

"Coyote in High School" is the final poem of my sequence of Coyote poems that I've posted like a serialized chapbook for #NationalPoetryMonth. In this poem, I take a look at the reality behind the bad boy archetype that's so common in books, movies, and television. 

The Fonzie character in the TV series, Happy Days, may have been the "cool" guy everyone else wanted to be, but his horizons were most likely limited by his family situation and his position in the class structure of his town and his country.


What is it about the bad boy,
the one in black leather
on too loud, too fast wheels,
the one we were warned against in high school?
Behind the scenes of proms and sock hops
and classes sanitized so we wouldn’t catch
the germs of thought,
all the girls had dreams about that bad boy
that we couldn’t even admit to ourselves
while our dates were safe white bread.

When we walked down the halls to lunch,
we knew the bad boys,
leaning against the walls
in cocky poses of insolence and threat,
were using their X-ray vision to see us
naked or--worse--in our schoolgirl underwear.
Some of us hunched over our books
and scuttled past that leering line.
Some of us stretched erect and strutted slightly
on our way beyond their limited prospects.

A classic teacher’s pet,
I snuck out twice with dangerous boys,
sideswiped by the kind of temporary insanity
that catches your heart in your throat,
roller-coaster, sky-diving, over-the-falls-in-a-barrel
fear and excitement blended into one shiver.

The first, in senior year, was careful with me,
insistent on leaving the good-girl scholar a virgin.
He didn’t want to hurt me, he said,
didn’t want to be bad news. I didn’t tell him
my father had taken care of that years earlier.
I didn’t answer his phone calls after that, either.
A couple of years later, the second one took me to his room
on the back of his Harley and made love to me
all night, telling me he knew he wasn’t good enough
for a girl like me, but he’d make me happy anyway.
He did that, and I avoided him thereafter.

I went with each only once,
though they were more gentle than the general run
of jocks and frat boys my friends dated.
After all, the insanity had been only temporary.
I had friends who’d stepped over the line too often
or too long and paid and paid—
as did some of us who mated with business or psych majors,
just in different ways.

Looking back, I wonder
if anyone ever warns the hard-shelled boys in leather
against the honor roll girls?

Published in Heart’s Migration (Tia Chucha Press, 2009)


  1. I love this series. In this one, it is the last stanza that is the real coyote. Yeah. Us honor roll girs.

  2. Kay, over the course of writing these poems, I came to understand the class dimensions of the bad boy archetype and to feel compassion for Coyote.