03 June 2010


Last week I attend the 30-something-year reunion for my secondary, AISP (Alternative & Independent Study Program; it's now called Avondale Alternative School). It was a pretty incredible experience. Lots of joy, and some dollops of sadness, and much reflection on mortality.

I got selected, first, to write a kind of ode to the school, and then to actually MC the entire evening, which turned out to be a lot of fun. And a great honour. AISP has some pretty notable alumni, for such a tiny school.

I had about three months to write my poem, during which time I panicked and flailed. I began the actually writing at 3 a.m. the night before the reunion. I did a little bit of cannibalization (mostly of devices) from earlier poems. The piece got a great response. Lots of inside references, but here it is nonetheless:


Did I ever tell you about this school
a school made up entirely of initials:

Apples In Silver Purses
Astronauts Integrating Small Pandas
Ask In Sequence Please
Agatha Ivanov Speaks Portguese

It was a free school
and we were free
to create our own learning
to call our teachers by their first names
to hang a parachute from the ceiling of the Common Room
(until a fire marshal told us otherwise)

We were free to rebel
to make super 8 films
to scream sound poems in the hallways
to make Xerox art in Dorothy’s office
to make comic books instead of essays
comics books about global domination by Venus fly traps

We were free to invent our own courses
skip classes walk out of classes sit in on classes
that we weren’t even taking
free to take the side of Mao Tse-Tung

Did I ever tell you about the initials?

Actively Irrigate Subtle Plantations
Anything Irritates Shirley’s Piano
Abe’s Integers Smoke Pot
Angels Illuminate Soryl’s Pecadillos

We were free to get beat up less than
at Jeffreys, MacKenzie, Fleming
to read any goddamn book we wanted to
I mean truly weird shit
to take three courses a year, or fifteen
to stage mock hostage-takings
and write revolutionary communiqués
to hang a parachute from the Common Room ceiling
I’m serious
because it meant we were alternative
and we were independent
sometimes we studied
and we were never programmed

we ate French fries at Dairy Freeze
fried liver and onions in the cafeteria
Carl ate cookies in his office
and then he brushed his teeth
thus providing a lesson

Have I mentioned the initials?
Always Investigate Snoopy Parents
Armadillos Invest Snappy Premiums
Africa Israel Switzerland Poland
Asia Istanbul Spain Peru

On torn sofas
in the Common Room
we argued sports and politics
under an actual parachute
that hung from the ceiling
a ceiling
a parachute
a fire marshal

We were free from beating each other up
free from conveyor belts
sausage education
particle board learning
We were free from Catcher in the Rye
if we wanted to be
free to take a class with a teacher
who’d fold our poems into paper airplanes
and fly them across the room

plus we had a parachute
a Common Room
a ceiling
have I told you about the parachute?

27 May 2010
Copyright © Stuart Ross

Over and out.


At June 04, 2010 10:46 am , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nicely done, I'm now thoroughly nostalgic for a place I've never been but wish I had! Amazingly Inclusive Stuart Poem, because Art Is Special People.


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