Merrill to Graduates: Write for Trade Magazines

James Merrill, addressing the graduating class of Brooklyn’s Sheepshead Bay High School, said, “Faced with the yawning dustbin that threatened to swallow my memoir, A Different Person—I did not simply ‘demur.’ I sought vindication, retribution, inebriation anew in Monet’s and Renoir’s images of Argenteuil—done to death already, but surviving nonetheless. Images whose light yet eclipses that of untold thousands of graffiti artists who did not live long enough to see their work white-washed in Giuliani’s ‘new’ New York. Dare ask those departed souls, ‘How is it that the ordered variety of our phonemic systems grew out of the disorderly monotony of animal cries?’”

When asked about Merrill’s speech to her class, Valedictorian Janice Bevilacqua, visibly with-child, shrugged and said that she was uncertain whether Merrill had said “polemic” or “bulimic.” “All I know is, it’s after 5 PM and I’m still standing here in this school.” Salutatorian Susannah Benton confessed that she had passed the afternoon daydreaming about a Cuban-Chinese boy whom she had witnessed breakdancing on a Brooklyn subway platform earlier that morning. “Mmm, mmm,” said Benton, “lifting his ass, swinging his right leg over his head, spinning on that gorgeous back. . . .”

Principal Mark Epstein, who stated this would be his last year at the high school, said that he believes “The graduating class is in for a world of hurt. Never mind that their beloved science-fair-models of our solar system will no longer include Pluto—each and every one of these kids, upon leaving this fabled institution, will need to reckon with their abysmal SAT scores.” Turning to address the throng of students squeezing through the fire exit, Epstein shouted, “Remember, hitting the rock between classes is one thing, being a full-time crackhead is quite another. You think you can just walk out those doors and go create your own unified theory explaining everything in the universe? Go on—good luck!”


© 2008 Christian Peet. Published in the chapbook, Pluto: Never Forget (Book II of The Nines), from Interbirth Books. Originally published in Denver Quarterly.