Lynn Ciesielski, “Notes”

Lynn Ciesielski

“You’ll go to hell for liking boys”, says the message
that comes to Andy’s email inbox.

At thirteen, peonies burst from my chest.
In the girls’ dressing room, other eighth graders
accuse me when I hide in private stalls,
They call me a fake, a fraud, say I stuff my bra,
nickname me “Cotton Queen”, “C.Q.”, for short.

Thirty years later in a nearby town:
Andy and his friends, all girls, giggle,
“Isn’t Joe hot? That tight end has a tight ass”.
He passes on dating, football, wrestle mania,
but plays cello and chess.
Boys call him fag, spray him with perfume,
punch him when teachers aren’t looking.

When I tell mom, “Kids at school harrass me,”
she says, “Ignore them. They want attention.
They probably don’t get it from their parents”.
Coming home from school, I hide behind trees
to avoid boys who poke me like fresh bread.

Andy types his cries to a virtual world,
“I want my gram and my friend up in heaven”.
A response reads, “Take your life if you want.
We’ll all be better off”.

Wine goes down like cocoa. Warmth rises into
my ears and soothes the icy taunts.
Mom throws the bottles out, sends me to therapy.
In technology class, I build boxes to hide away
echoes of schoolmates’ voices.

Andy can’t box the voices in his head.
One day, notes from his cello melody
swing from the backyard clothesline
In the studio his teacher waits alone.
Broken music drifts along the breeze.

Author’s Comment: Feeling a sense of acceptance or “fitting in” is so important to many schoolchildren. It can play a big role in developing a strong self-esteem. In many scenarios, children who are considered different or don’t fit the norm in some way are ostracized or, at worst, bullied. For some, this can be devastating. In the case of a local teenager recently, it led to a very unfortunate suicide. When I heard the news, I was brought face to face with my own difficult memories of being bullied as a teenager. It moved me to write this.

Bio: Lynn Ciesielski is a former Special Education Teacher from Western New York. She taught in city schools for eighteen years before she retired three years ago. Since she left her career, she has turned most of her energy to poetry. Her work has appeared in Avocet, Buffalo News, Maple Leaf Rag IV, Transparent Words (UK), Speed Poets Zine (Australia) and is upcoming in Iodine. She has performed in Western New York, Toronto, New Orleans and several cities in England.

2 thoughts on “Lynn Ciesielski, “Notes”

  1. One of my favorites in this issue, Lynn, because of its importance. In the interest of adding to the conversation I’m going to be self-indulgent enough to post two of my own here. The first, about parental bullying, was published in Jane Crown’s mag “Heavy Bear.” The second, a cautionary tale, is unpublished.


    my father would always say,
    any time we’d go out together,
    any place we might be seen by others,
    Try not to be so God-damned
    meaning even though he thought I might be gay
    he didn’t want the rest of the world to know
    it was a possibility,
    meaning, Take off that damned pink shirt,
    meaning, Don’t stand like that,
    arms across my chest,
    one hip thrust to the side,
    meaning, Would it hurt you to put your hair
    up under a cap now and then,
    meaning, Get your nose out of those
    God-damned books for a while,
    meaning, Forget all those bleeding heart
    liberal ideas that don’t have anything
    to do with the real world,
    meaning, At least talk in a deeper voice
    if you have to say anything at all,
    meaning, And for God’s sake don’t tell anybody
    you write poetry.

    When he first asked, when I was 15,
    I thought long and hard
    before refusing to answer,
    asking, instead, why it should matter.

    And it ate him up for the next 3 years,
    not knowing. Not that it was always easy,
    convincing my mother not to say anything,
    keeping my girlfriends away
    from the house when he was there.

    But it was worth it,
    keeping him off balance,
    unsure if he could dismiss
    a whole group of people
    without condemning his own son,
    making his discomfort
    the most conspicuous thing about him.

    Whatever Happened to the Four Boys Who Beat Eddie
    after Lauren Schmidt’s Retard

    One has nightmares still,
    tastes piss in his dreams,
    can’t seem to connect
    with his own children
    who live in different towns
    and never come home to visit.

    One has a son with Down’s Syndrome,
    twenty-eight now, living at home,
    cleaning floors at the radio station after dark.
    He loves his son, but can’t help feel
    at fault and wonders who will take care
    of him when he’s no longer there.

    One still comes to apologize
    on the same day every year,
    visits Eddie and his neighbors,
    waits his turn in line,
    for the wooden spoon, the marinara,
    the blessing hand beneath the chin.

    And one had nothing happen at all,
    lives in the house his mother left him,
    stays up watching football and Bruce Willis,
    still smokes pot every day, collects
    his check for diabetes, a bad back,
    a heart that never beat the way it should.

    • Thank you for your kind words about my poem. I really like your piece, “Con-spic-u-ous”. Unfortunately, it’s so very apt. My sister is a lesbian but my mom is very accepting of her wife. I don’t think my dad would have handled it very well if she had come out while he was alive.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s