caron a. levis



Winner of the 2009 SLS Contest; Selected by Lynne Tillman



This on?

Think I’m hearin me. Me.

This reverbin either in the buildin or in my head. Whatever. Ha.

Nobody listnin anyways right?

Mos all you out the building by now, an who listens to the announcements they makin evry five minutes like they tryin to give all of evybody in the whole Bronx a holla or somethin anyway.

Thing is, this NOT your principal speakin.

This. Is. Nessa. And today I didn do nothin.

I’m jus a surge cloud, thas all.

Yeah. I didn’t ever hear of it either till last week when miss wahzerfuck—EXCUSE ME, miss whazerface, said something bout it in science.

I’m passin that one. I even turn in summa the homework and if she don’t pass me, she gonna have to see me in there again nex year, and you know she don’t want that cause Ima surge cloud.

She say it’s this super hot air that comes offa lava. Like outta a volcano. An it jus as deadly as the lava itself. It can kill. Even though it’s invisible it can kill. How you like that? Ha, Yeah. I like that. That is me. Ima get it tattooed.

All I’m sayin is people best watch out. All I’m sayin is if somebody got burnt, not my fault. I didn do nothin. Is just my invisible hotness.


I was jus sittin there, fourth floor hall, where I always be, not standin or stalkin, screamin, playin beats, or nothin—jus chillin, an mister principal, he come over and he axing me where my sposed to be?

An I am axing him the same thing with my mind but he not seein my mind only my shoulders doin the shruggin and so he axing me again, louder, where my sposed to be?


Dults always wantin you to be minding your own biz til the exact moment you do. Right? He think I don’t know why he beastin on me steada evybody else runnin round this hall. He think I didn hear my gramma on the phone withim yesterday.

I given her to you, she says. I puttin her in your hands now, she says.

Course he don’t know she meaning that on the literal. She can’t tell him she kickin me out, cause maybe it ain’t legal. But she do it anyway. She say she too tired for a teenager.

But he’s not knowin any a that. He jus want to do his job so he axing me again about where my where my where my.

So I say,

You know, Mister Sobers, you my favorite princiPAL I ever had? For real. They tell you about the pal in elementary but I never saw it in nobody til now. It’s the truth. You really—

But then some baby-brawl break out down the other end, probaly eight-oh-two—you know it’s gotta be—jumpin eight-ten class again, an he book it down there like he gonna try to do somethin bout it. Nobody can do nothin bout eight-oh-two. They hopeless. But they makin it so he leave fore he get his answer from me an thas fine since thas what I’m workin on anyway, right now, that answer of where my sposed to be.

I wonder if Ida been put with the eight-ten or eight-oh-two class Ida made it to grade eight this year.

An jus in case anybody out there listnin who dont know, I’m in six-oh-three. Three years. Thas right. Ima get it tattooed.

You hearin me?

This thing still on right?



Check it. Principal always tryin to get us to go to class by axing us where you sposed to be, right? If they wanted us to be in the classes then they shoulda built this school with some walls, for real, steada this halfway-up-walls-made-outta-paper Open Airbullshit. Only rooms that got real walls and doors be the computer lab and the science room and this one right here across from me where the new special arts program is at.

This one with the doorknob sayin turn this shit right here, turn this shit right here, I dare you to turn this shit right here.

An maybe I’m hearin this hallway extra loud today, or somethin, I don’t know. Usually the only reason I come to school, is for the loud in the hall, an my girls laughin at any little thing don’t matter what, but today I’m bored maybe. Maybe my ears be sore. All I know is I’m up with my hands on that knob an it won’t turn cause they keep it locked this door. You hearin me?

Locked. Like they got treasure in there or something steada jus some stupid class. An you gotta be on a list to go in there. Like it’s a club or some shit. This a school not a night club, right? Why they allowed to be all V.I.P. like that? You hearin?

Yesterday I come in to see what it all about an one a the teachers, the fly one, who dark an licious like gramma’s gravy, with his muscles all carved, an his hair all crisp—he boilin hot—he say sorry, you not in the program. Sorry, you got to be on the list. Sorry, you not on the list so sorry, you can’t be in here, you got to get your sorry ass to your sorry class, you got to go where you sposed to be, where you sposed to be? Evybody want me to go where I sposed to be but nobody in this school seem to know where the fuck that shit is.

Now he too fly to be so sorry, so I left. But today I’m back an givin the door a good BANG. Thas what we do here on doors, right? We BANG, BANG. These new teachers they not used to it, so sometimes they try to come out sayin stop it. Bang, bang, banging been going on in this school for all of ever, and they think we gonna stop cause they Look Serious. Ha. What they gonna do about it? I hear them visitors the other day sayin how this one a them schools needs to jus be burned to the ground cause nothin gonna save it.


I got somethin for that fine teacher in my pocket.

Malique, he been in that class two weeks, and he tell me bout it. Bout how they playin games in there and talkin bout wack stuff like feelins and shit. And how they get snack. Bout how the only homework they gotta do is get some slip signed by they parent or guardian or whatever jus one time. Then they set to be gettin snack an playin they reindeer games evy week for the resta the whole year.


I axed Malique what they need that big room for an he say it cause they need room cause they be playin games and warmin ups and shit cause they use they bodies in here cause they be doin actin. When I axed him what kind of actin he say, you know, like shows. I axe what the shows about an he say they bout life. Angerina says they about how to get a better life. Sounds wack to me but they miss social studies for it.


I don’t know why, I don’t know why.


Somebody come to see what goin on out here and pop the door a inch. I slip through that crack in there no problem. Surge cloud style. An I am in.

They all sittin in the middle of the big room in a circle. A circle all facin eachother—what class you sit in a circle like that? I say hey-hey to Malique and Angerina give me a snap up. The teacher from the otha day not in there. Jus the other one, the shortie I can’t tell if maybe she gotta flava or she jus one a them snowcones who puttin it on. She walkin round the circle a chairs with a box handin out snack, I think its those nasty granola bars maybe I don’t know.

Can I help you? She axin me an evybody lookin. Do you need something?

Evybody lookin. Melinda an Angerina smilin cause they expect me to do my usual an make evybody laugh at some loud shit I pull out. Tyrike, I didn know he in this class, he got his fine eyes on me too. And I am thinkin thas not why I am in here, why am I in here, but I am confused, whas that slip called? People sayin hey-hey and lookin at me and this teacher she startin to look tight, crossin her arms and maybe if she axe me again do I need but she sayin where you sposed to—an Tyrike sayin aww burn, younot gonna let her do like that right—an I am confused so I say, I heard they was given out snacks.

An I like snack.

An she let out this lil sigh. Maybe nobody else hear it, but I hear it. Even though it not even one fluid ounce a the sighs my gramma make it jus as cold, jus as seeable, like it winter in here all a sudden, an I can see every breath she usin to say how she wish but she don’t have extra to give and I’m not in the class so I have ta leave. I don’t belong here. Like she know where I belong. She don’t know nothin. What she know? She ain’t even a real teacher, right? What real teacher talk bout life?

Evybody lookin to see what I’m gonna do to the teacher who talk block to me like that cause they know Nessa not held back for any missin IQ, Nessa jus don’t sit quiet. She loud an she funny, crack your shit up all over the floor, an she clear a hall in seven seconds when she want to go stalkin. So they lookin, but why my in here, why my why my an she repeatin and they lookin an Ihave somethin—

But she passin an handin snack outta her box to evybody who sittin there in her wack little circle but not me, an evybody lookin, expectatin, cause my rep proceeds, so I go over there an why my why my an I say YO, GIMME MY SNACK. An she say I don’t belong in here and could I please leave, but I feel like stayin so I stay an she still won’t gimme a snack.

So, I’m talkin to Malique, cause he belong here, and tellin him to get me a snack from the bitch teacher—EXCUSE ME— I’m SO sorry—from the teacher.

Cept she won’t let him cause she know it for me.

An she keep sayin I am not in the program and I am not supposed to be here not supposed to be here, please leave and leave and leave you don’t belong here you don’t belong here you don’t belong belong belong you don’t youdon’tyoudon’toudon’tdon’t—

Well, what she saying is exactly what I’m here to fix.

I go for my pocket where I was gonna get what I came in to show. My poem dumb ELA teacher put on the board in the hall, this morning she musta done it. Why she puttin that shit up in the hall I don’t know, don’t nobody wanna see that shit out there. Dont matter how nice it be, teacher puttin it up, you a punk. Lucky I untacked it fore anybody could start bustin on me bout it. But I kept it in my pocket and maybe it can get me ontha list since it’s a arts program, the new special program, an poems is art and my poems bout life and thas what Malique say they doin in here so maybe. Maybe.

So, I tell her, I got somethin for you.

But now she busy axing somebody else ta stay in they seat, jus have patience, soon as she Take Care a This, she be startin class. This.

An I lookin at who it is she tryin to get to stay in the room while she tryin to get me outta it, an I see its Devon. An nexta him is Hector who be bustin on Shawanna, who flirtin with James. An I get the deal now.

I know who belong in here. You gotta be bad to belong in here. Angerina says they tell them they been specially selected, but really it’s just that you gotta have like a daddy in jail, or a dropout sister, or a baby, or been arrested, or jus never come to school. You gotta be A Risk. Thas what the school like to call bad kids. A Risk.

Problem is this teacher thinkin how I am not on her list, I’m not A Risk, and I’m not belonging in here, but she will see soon enough. I am a surge cloud.

She sayin again about me leavin, so I say, I’M NOT DEAF ARE YOU?

That get her attention. Like she a dog an I the can that jus got opened.

So, steada the poem, I take outta my pocket one a the tacks that was holdin it up, an I shove it to Angerina near her face an she backs away cause she know it sharp. Teacher should know that. I got sharp objects in my pockets. She. Should. Know. That.

An I hype now, so I start stalkin. Itsa big room, lotta space in here, an I’m feelin it. See there this green paper coverin all the walls, like she tryin to make it look like grass in here steada the cracked whiteness in every other room. An there all these drawins over the green paper—an signs sayin cornpop shit bout choices. Like anybody in here got choices for real. I stalk their little circle a chairs a coupla times. Floors still dirty as everywhere.

She lookin mad tight now.

What’s your name? she axing me,

Whas your name? I axe her back.

She say she not lookin to play around an so I say again WHAS YOUR NAME?!

She try not to flinch.

I hear Malique sayin thas Nessa, I go over, slap his head, tell motherfucker to shut the fuck up cause he bunz.

Teacher come up again talking bout language an how she tryin to teach.

Yeah, I know that. What you think I come here for? I axe her. I tryin to get my eh-ju-ma-kay-tion. I tell her to quit beastin on me, an give me my snack. I axe her can I get some juice, my throat is dry, she don’t say nothin.


She don’t like me. I can tell. Fine. I don’t like her neither. I tell her, I DON’T LIKE YOU.

I go to the back where the teacher desk is and there’s a cell phone sittin there, so I pick it up cause I always got people to call. But the keys is locked. She’s telling me to put it down, like I’m gonna steal it or somethin. And she’s saying it again about leavin and how she’s tryin to teach, but I don’t see her doin nothin but yellin at me and gettin all up in my business.

They got a microwave in this classroom and everything and I go look at it. To see if there’s any popcorn in there and then she is axing me do I need security. And I tell her go ahead. I LOVE SECURITY. She axe does she really have to call security and I say she don’t have to do nothin, but if she want to call security, she can go head. Security probaly won’t come anyway. They lazy. Anyway, all they do is take me outside say some shit an let me go. Security always let me go.

So then she tell somebody to go get security Right Now an I see these comfortable chairs near the teacher desk so I sit down.

Cause I like to be comfortable.

She says get up, I can’t sit there. She says I don’t belong here. So I say, YOU don’t belong here. But it’s time so I stand up an I reach inta my pocket—not that I’m needin the paper cause I got it memorized since I wrote it, an anyway it sposed to be spoke on the mic in the first place, not tacked onta some wack hallway bulletin board, an WHO GOT THE MIC NOW?! Ha, yeah. Who. Got. The Mic. Now.

You hearin me?



If. I.

By Nessa.

If I was.

If I was a liquid.

If I was a liquid I be

Sierra Mist.

Clear an sweet with bubbles.

Spicin up your party.

Cool in a can.

Smooth in a cup.

But if you spill me, no need to mop up.

I’ll be out. Risin, jumpin,


Nowhere for spilled mist to go

cept up.



who out there hearin that?


said, you hearin that?


Sound nice on the mic, right?


Yeah. Well. That was what I was gonna. But I don’t.

Cause she still sayin you dont, an I know she wont hear nothin til she shuts up bout the please leave call security shit, an starts respectin, an I standin an she still not respectin so I think I’ll havta do somethin more for her to be respectin me so I yell boo in her face, an I grab that poem paper an this kicked Doritos bag I got in my pocket and I put em in the microwave and I turn up the dial high and it go right out into flames.

An she fast that teacher. She fast. She like run or leap or something. She O.D.’n now, screamin hey or somethin and then she openin the door and she take out that bag—with her bare hands—an she stomp on it. And all the kids are sayin, Oh shit, and laughin. An I laugh too. Cause I like to see people tryin to put out fires.

An she finish an look up to me an she sayin she don’t know where security is but I am to leave. Right. Now.

An somebody say Oh shit.

An I look behind me an I see she didn get it all. She put out the bag, but she didn see the poem an maybe it fly out still burnin, cause some flames jumpin outta papers on her desk and she tryin to fast over there now and I stop laughin cause she comin through me to get to there and thinkin she can push me now and I say DON’T YOU TOUCH ME! Pushin me out the way an sayin go, get out NOW.

But I say DON’T YOU PUSH ME. And I take the other tack outta my pocket and I go like THIS. I get right up close to her face—she wasn’t liking that, right?

You like my polish, right? I’m telling her, my nails is niiiiiiiice, right? And I tell her to MIND HER BUSINESS. I say, DON’T TOUCH ME. You can’t put me out like I’m some busted up bag full of crumbs. I. Don’t. Like. You. What’s your NAME? WHAS YOUR NAME? I DON’T LIKE YOU!

And somebody sayin FIRE.

An she get behind me someway sayin EVERYBODY OUT. An she spillin juice on the desk an slammin a coat down. An Malique run out, with a bang on the door yellin,

School burnin DOWN! Evybody DISmissed!

An evybody hollerin and grabbin they bookbags and booking out the door and bang, bang, banging on they way out. Cept me, cause I’m not leavin Til.

An the teacher she look up an she see me still here an she sayin GO. LEAVE. NOW.

An I’m saying CHILL. I go when I get it.

An she lookin at me now like I speakin some Chinese or shit an she say GET WHAT?!


I want my snack. Thas all.

MY snack. I heard you need a slip to get it. So, can I have one?

She starin at me and squintin an maybe its cause some smoke has started risin an maybe its makin it hard to be seein me. An the smoke has started cause the pretty green papers is catchin an my fire be startin up the wall now. She see that an turn to it like she don’t believe what she seein an her eyes are all big and startin to water like thas all she got left to battle this fire with now that the juice is spilled. She kinda frozen, an she lookin at the wall but she axin me, like in a whisper, one more time, what?

God. Damn. Whas wrong with her hearin?



What you think I want?

But she never answer me, cause somebody done pull the alarm an the room filled with a loud louder than anything. Bunches a teachers an mister Principal they rushin in here now, with extinguishers, seein the desk an the flames but not me cause I am a surge cloud. An I walkin out the door, through the hall, down the stairs, an security rushin past me up em, not seein me cause I am invisible. An I come down here right to security’s desk where nobody’s at. Could walk out the front door. Fire department not gonna stop me from goin nowhere.

But I’m gonna wait right here. Sittin in the comfy chair, at this empy desk, til security come back. I got plenty a time an this mic for the PA. Thas Public Address, for real, but this NOT your principal speakin.

This. Is. Nessa. An today I didn do nothin.

I’m jus a surge cloud, thas all.