You had to know my pal Chelminski
to take full measure
of his unfettered enthusiasm for mischief.
One day, for no good reason,
on the blackboard in history class,
its chalky mockery hidden
behind a Mercator projection of the world,
pulled down to conceal the silliness beneath;
in red paint in the tiled foyer
beneath the bronze statue of Abe Lincoln
(its nose an erotic protuberance stroked
by giggling, complicit teenage fingers);
on our textbooks, on our lockers, in the halls,
on the floors beneath our beds,
and at last, on the door
to the headmaster’s living room.
Ah yes, our headmaster, the sanctimonious Tall Paul,
eventually found the ebullient prankster out.
“Chelminski,” he intoned before the entire school,
“I find your all too inappropriate treatment of
And here Tall Paul paused, grateful
for the chance to wrinkle his nose
and condemn adolescent masturbation.
From somewhere behind invisible curtains
we could hear Chelminski giggle.
About the author, Victor Altshul: My second and third books of poems, Singing with Starlings (2015) and Ode to My Autumn (2017), were published by Antrim House, and two of my poems have appeared in the Hartford Courant. My work has recently been published in Alabama Literary Review, Burningword Literary Journal, Cape Rock, Caveat Lector, Chantwood Magazine, Coachella Review, Door Is A Jar Magazine, Existere, The Perch, and Studio One. I am active on the board of the Connecticut Poetry Society and have given several readings throughout the state. I am a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Medical School and am on the faculty of the latter. I have been in continuous private practice of psychiatry since 1967.