I forgot there are spaces
where my contribution is not welcome,
where respect is conflated with tolerance,
where I feel small, not because I am Asian, or woman, or young,
but because I am not Center.
A sharp, wooden rap.
Smack on the wrist.
Look at me.
Listen to me.
I wake abruptly, drool trailing on the papers.
Blearily, I snap to attention.
Look at the front.
I know how to play that game.
I grew up doing it.
I did it all my life.
Don’t study the subject.
Study the test.
Don’t study the test.
Study the testmaker.
Don’t study the testmaker.
Study the grader.
You don’t have time to be curious,
there is always more to learn when you are learning for a grade.
Put the textbook under your pillow,
maybe you can learn by osmosis!
But maybe it is better to drown in sleep
Than to choke when waking.
I’ve bubbled too many Scantrons to care about sticking to the Center.
Fudge the Center.
Just ask the kids who bubbled “YOLO,”
Potentially compromising the test for their entire school.
What about their bright futures? What about the housing prices?
They felt clever, for once.