Poem – Life Science (By Layla Lenhardt)

Life Science

If only I was older, wiser

than gapped tooth, golden haired

twenty-two, I wouldn’t have wondered,

what whiskered man is this? 

His hair like a peppered moth,

he sat stubbing cigarette butts

into the ancient ruins of the bar

ash tray. There was a familiarity

in the corner creases of his brown eyes.

I could smell the paste and chemicals

of the yellow-glossed paper of

textbooks, I could feel the dull

cuts on my index finger.


Then all at once, I remembered. Him,

younger, fuller faced, unburdened by

the history of public education,

teaching life science to 7th graders.

My memory of how he once stood

tall at the blackboard, now mocked

the curvature of his spine over his

beer glass. I made my move.


We talked about David Byrne and what

bones I’ve been digging up the past

nine years, what wood he’s been cutting.

All the whike, his tongue was a metronome counting

measures he’d take.


His garage had a tennis ball on a string,

a warning, a one-way telephone, a pendulum

swaying, magnetic compass, living on an iron mine.

We listened to the song The Weight,

we smoked, I took my inhaler. I

wanted to fill my gaps with IPAs

and I crossed my fingers that I’d stay whole.


But how could I  leave? My mouth was filled

with moon stones and marbles, my chest

was filled with bees. I unfurled unwillingly

on his corduroy couch.

Oh come on, you’re not tired.

He was a meme, he was a joke, yellowed

by the Walmart light fixture in his townhome.

He flipped me over while I swallowed the blood

from my lips. I didn’t open my mouth again,

so it wasn’t his fault. That night I’d lost a lot

more than the button on my skirt, than that twenty

dirty dollars at the bar. But I was a shell, floating

weightless in flattery’s ocean, I didn’t realize

that gravity was the school of hard knocks I’d

attend in my nightmares for the next ten years.


Is consent just a story we tell ourselves on the drive home

with a white knuckled grip on the steering wheel? On Alvernia

Street, the oak trees held their arms above their head in surrender

as I passed. I felt them judging me as I lit a joint and drove on,

as if the past was just an etch a sketch that could be erased.


Author Bio: Layla Lenhardt

Layla Lenhardt is Editor in Chief of 1932 Quarterly. She has been most recently published in Poetry Quarterly, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, The Opiate, The Charleston Anvil, and Scars. Her forthcoming Poetry Book, These Ghosts are Mine is due for publication this fall. She currently resides in Indianapolis.