Susan Jesse Bernstein

Susan Jesse Bernstein
{More Noise Please}

it was my senior year of high school
in the thrall, the rush
of between class periods;
a disgusting glut of Gen-X’er kids
biliously filing through the halls
of a nearly decrepit brick and mortar
in that milling about, you called from afar
over the heads of classmates and strangers,
“Gabe! I love you!”
my embarrassment covered my face like
smeared pigeon shit or
salmon row on the visage
of a superstitious fisherman.
I noticed, like it was broadcast
over the school’s public address system.
“Hear this now, Roosevelt High student body,
Mrs. Susan Oas, Literary Arts teacher, loves
Gabriel Vaught, senior, and wayward budding poet.”
They would all guffaw with some horrible
judgment…some discompassionate eye.
point. laugh. judge. presume. whisper rumors.
I would duck into a nook or cranny
and shake with the consternation
of a beauty pageant contestant
awaiting the announcement of the winner.
even then, I knew it was okay to be loved by her:
absent of sexual ideation or lust. just admiration.

Steven Jesse Bernstein. I never knew you.
at that awkward, ignorant age of 17,
I didn’t know who the fuck you were, at all.

the day after you committed suicide,
my writing teacher, Susan Oas,
known to us as ‘Mrs. Oas’,
solemnly read aloud, to our college-credit
English 101 class, your poem titled
More Noise Please.
she had given us the news,
with some foolish assumption
that we knew of your pained existence.
aside from your own recording of the poem,
she delivered the best reading I could imagine
I was captured, a poetic deliverance
to a life I never envisioned…

…in the years that followed
I became so intimate with the album
that contained that recording
always remembering that early, 17 year-old afternoon
squishing, bloodless, through some
verbose birth canal…

“Susan! Steven! I LOVE YOU!!!”


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