I am sitting at a long table in an unfamiliar classroom.
There are 40 of us, all incoming freshmen
Staring at randomly assigned essay prompts.
A 30-minute timer is ticking.
My prompt, guileless and unknowing, says,
You, like everyone, are an expert at something.
Tell us about your expertise and defend it with examples.
I am 18. I should have said,
I am an expert at spending sunny days in the bed of a pickup truck.
I am an expert at making up excuses to stay out late.
I am an expert in being the most sober person at the party.
I am an expert at saying yes when I mean no and no when I mean yes.
I am expert in getting dumped by guys I should have dumped months ago.
Instead, I write, I am an expert in poetry
And I compose five tidy paragraphs about
The collected works of Jim Morrison.
I have read every poem and song written by Morrison.
I have written my senior honor’s thesis on Arthur Rimbaud.
I have stayed up many nights writing
Verses that mimic lyrics from The Doors.
This is all that I know of poetry.
I am 18. I should have written,
I am an expert at sneaking into the drive-in movie theater.
I am an expert in riding roller coasters until I feel green.
I am an expert at balancing two jobs with school and friends.
I am an expert at spending my entire paycheck at Record Town.
I am an expert in walking that fine, fine line between good girl and bad.
The essay I compose about poetry
Is read and evaluated by MFA graduate students to
determine my freshman English class placement.
I place average and
Enter freshman composition with the mixed majority.
I feel like a failure:
A weak writer, a reluctant reader and a mediocre thinker.
I am only 18, I should have said,
I am an expert in nothing,
And then defended my claim.
I am here to learn, I should have said,