Isn't It Poetic?

November 17, 1896
Penelope Sumter

Poets are poetic. The fact would seem obvious enough, but then obvious is only a perspective. Of more importance, and more interest, I am not a poet. The conclusion of which should reveal I am not poetic. This is of the obvious to those with perspective on such matters. Mr. Stark should have been among those aware, but as fate would have it, he was far from aware and the obvious was not.

There was a soft round of applause as Elizabeth finished her reading. The classroom was a solemn environment for the afternoon as each of us in turn would stand before our peers and reveal our deepest emotions in the form of moving text strung symbolically in rhyme. The page containing my attempt sat folded on my desk before me. Soon it would be my turn and it was apprehension alone sitting heavily in my chair, whilst my mind traveled the corridors to the outside where it rested peacefully underneath a willow tree.

“Miss Sumter.” Mr. Stark called.

My mind traveled back to the classroom and the task ahead. Nervously, I pushed myself upward on leaden legs and walked stiffly to the podium at the front. Upon arrival, I realized my first mistake, the folded page still sat waiting on the desktop I left behind. Mr. Stark raised an eyebrow as I turned around to retrieve it. The second journey forward was no easier than the first. The lead in my legs was joined by butterflies in my tummy.

I faced my peers with determination to survive the ordeal. Unfolding the page, I cleared my throat to clear the way. I looked downward at the page and for a moment I swear it was blank. The words came swimming back and I took a deep breath before I read aloud.

Gentle Breezes

Gentle breezes blowing through summer’s sweet grass
Pollen, cotton, wheezing, swinging, sitting on my ass
Bourbon in the study, tobacco smoke swirling thoughts best not ask
Behind closed doors, whooshing, thumping, swishing, being brought to task

Gentle breezes blowing through summer’s windows open
Pleading, crying, whining, stomping, writing with a pen
Flowers in the garden, water droplets falling, peace shall not last
Hot tea for two, sitting, sweating, sipping, remembering the past

Gentle breezes blowing through summer’s timely ending
Packing, cheering, waiting, singing, rejoicing with the sending
Smiles in the station, hugs and kisses coming, goodbyes are not forever
Step up, trembling, waving, jumping, needing the binding ties to sever

The End

I looked up from the podium wondering what the response would be. My peers were silent, not even a gentle applause for the effort. Mr. Stark stared speechless at me for a moment before suddenly slapping me across the face. I staggered back from the podium, stunned.

“That has to be the most disgusting and perverse attempt at poetry I have ever heard.” He said.
“I only did what you asked.” I replied.

He slapped me again. I cowered close to the floor.

“How dare you blame me for your vulgarity.” He said.

“I am sorry, sir.” I said.

It was instinct to plead forgiveness despite the certainty in my heart I had done nothing wrong. I wrote what came to me. I constructed the prose so as to rhyme. Is it my fault the result is less than spectacular? I think not, it is what it is. Poetry is not my choice for expressing myself and its rules made my attempt what it was not my heart or soul or mind.

Mr. Stark took the page from the podium where it lay and tore it to shreds before my eyes. He sprinkled the pieces on me like salt on an open wound. I would have cried but I knew the worst was yet to come.

“Forgiveness must be earned, Miss Sumter. Your disrespect for me, the assignment, and your classmates leaves me no choice but to discipline you and you should be thankful if I do not refer this matter to the Dean.” He said.

I stared at the ground, wrapped my arms around my knees. My chest felt like it would burst from the sadness.

“Prepare yourself.” He ordered.

I looked up at him questioning what it was he meant. His unblinking gaze revealed nothing, but made me look away.

“Sir?” I asked.

“Strip.” He said.

I flushed red in the face. There were boys in the class and they looked at me with greedy eyes.

“Please sir.” I begged.

“Strip.” He repeated.

And so I did.

I laid naked over Mr. Stark’s desk. My white buttocks plainly visible to my peers, one and all. I wanted to cry but there were no tears in my eyes. I pressed myself harder against the desk until its edges bit into my skin. The pain was only enough to dull my awareness of the scene I presented, not enough to hide within.

Mr. Stark swung a yardstick a dozen times. I kept my quiet and my tears. Unlike so many times, I felt no remorse, no sadness for my deeds. I felt only angry at the sting. The spanking was over soon enough but the humiliation is what never truly leaves.

When it was done I stood against the wall, my bare, red bottom on display. My hands quivered at my sides, struggling against the urge to provide comfort. Mr. Stark continued with the class as though I was not present at all. When at last the bell rang I had begun to imagine I was merely a part of the wall.

“Gather your things, Miss Sumter.” Mr. Stark ordered.

I turned around to find the room empty except for the two of us. I quickly knelt to the ground by his desk and retrieved my discarded clothes. Mr. Stark stepped to the side wall and opened a window to the outside. The cool air made me shiver.

“Throw them out here.” He ordered.

“Sir, no.” I said.

I backed away toward the door with my things held tightly to my chest.

“Throw them out the window, now.” He said.

I shook my head, no and continued toward the door. My fingers closed around the knob and turned it to open. I stepped out into the corridor and ran. I was almost at the stairs when I collided with Mr. Birchwood and we both tumbled to the floor.

“Miss Sumter?” Mr. Birchwood said.

I scrambled to collect my clothes afraid Mr. Stark would not be far behind. Mr. Birchwood grabbed my arm and helped me up.

“What has happened to you?” He asked.

It sounded like genuine concern in his voice. I shook my head too embarrassed to respond with the truth.

“Come with me.” He said.

He guided me forcefully by the arm into his private office and closed the door. I shuddered as I heard it lock. I backed away from him afraid matters had just become even worse.

“Get dressed.” He said.

I was surprised, but I wasted no time in obeying.

“Now, tell me what happened and who sent you out like that.” Mr. Birchwood commanded.

And so I did.

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