little bunny, who all summer long fattened on
daisies and grasses of our meadow-like lawn that
the guidance of the unmanifest, pulls up his lucky
feet in the sun in the grass in the world, like a natural
like a monk in silent meditation (but chewing),
and imperfect. Perfect because he takes what comes,
thickening coat of winter fur, the warmth of an
star, the grasses and the daisies
—and our lettuce;
because were I to approach him, as I have since
in June, he'd eventually flinch, show me a look of
Uh-oh! and prudently hop away
(though slowly), wanting—
as a Buddha doesn't want
—to continue chewing
a grayish-brown bunny fretting that I, too, might want—
have him up for supper, which, naturally, I've considered.
Our newly constructed grade school protruded
from a hillside pasture next to Mr. Bean's
From our classrooms we could see out past the
for over a mile down Route 108, beyond the
said to be former slave quarters less than 100
Mr. Thomas, the school custodian, somewhat
with fluffy wings of white hair above his
waved to us as the nuns lined us up for
comings and goings.
We would say to him, "Good morning, Mr.
and "Goodbye, Mr. Thomas," as he
leaned on his dust mop.
Once after lunch Lucille Lambeau threw up on
Sister St. Frances sent me to the boiler room
for Mr. Thomas.
I knocked. The door swung open. Soft hot air
Mr. Thomas, seeming somewhat surprised, said, "Hello,
I looked up at him, then stared into his
Inside there was an old wooden desk, a
from Father McGowan, no doubt. Assorted mops
leaned this way and
that like broken metronomes,
despite the young
age of our school. The boiler hummed,
and all was warmth. "What
is it young fella?"
I looked up at our
grandfatherly janitor and told him,
Frances wants you, Mr. Thomas. Lucy vomited."
you," he chuckled, "Go tell Sister I'll be right along."
But I was already
staring again, at the half-eaten tangerine
on his desk, and the
pillow in a chair that had four little wheels.
On a gray morning,
perhaps in January, Sister St. Frances
pressed her hand to
my forehead. "You have a fever, Patric."
She was to call my
mother, and I to get my things together
and go sit on the
couch in the principal's waiting room.
The authority of the
office seemed to have a cooling effect.
Soon Sister arrived to escort me out, and
in front of the school was Mr. Thomas in his
something like a '41 Ford coupe, kind of
puffing out the tailpipe, black as all those
seem to be in memory. Mr. Thomas leaned over
the passenger-side door. The heater blew full
and I climbed in while Sister smiled at him as
Then he said to me, "You'll be okay,
young Patric. You'll be
home to mama soon." And the motor
the muffler, and moved us into the Maryland
In the overstuffed seat my eyes barely reached
to the window,
but I didn't want to look out. I peered at the
wondering where the radio was, maybe asked Mr.
"Where's your radio, Mr. Thomas?"
And maybe he smiled at me,
And maybe he didn't, but I did look up as he
held onto the wheel.
Mother met us in the driveway, thanked Mr.
and offered a tip, which he accepted. "Thank
you, Mr. Thomas,"
I said. He waved, "You're welcome, young
fella." That evening,
my father warned mother, "Don't let it
happen again," explaining
how "Negroes" ought not to be
driving around our neighborhood.
like a wedding party," Professor Wendtly
"in a white tent . . . one spring at noon . . .
I rejoiced the couple would make love
soon in a very special way.
my face aside . . . like a graceless
the couple cut the cake I slipped away,
through a tent flap, nearly overcome
solitude and joyousness and angst,
the virgin air, into the vernal light of
into a garden that pulsated
breathed, warbled with small birds.
I realized that every
day on Earth
a wedding, and I was there, at last,
what was I to think of my diagnosis:
cancer . . . for heaven's sake.
was before I learned I would be cured,
and that I would return
teach you novels I'd like to fully understand."
Wendtly had us going.
sat in stillness,
no one said a thing when he turned his head
the window, and the sun magnified his face.
Rossi raised his hand,
what's your point?"
Wendtly stared, turned to the light again,
as you realize just when and what
where you are, everything is vivid . . .
And what were we to think of
graceless sophomores, there, in English 216?
Patric Pepper has published two collections of poetry, a chapbook, Zoned Industrial, and a full length collection, Temporary Apprehensions, which won the 2004 Washington Writers' Publishing House Poetry Prize. His work has most recently appeared in Cape Cod Poetry Review, District Lines, and Gargoyle.