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Chicagoetry: I Can See Fear In Your Eyes, Bon Jovi


In the 1990s
I lived in Wicker Park.
I wanted to be
an artist.

It wasn't exactly
working out.

My friend Amy,
a special ed teacher
trained at ISU
offered me a paying job

as a "teacher's assistant"
at Oak Therapeutic Day School
near Ashland and Division.
I had

no clue.

Come to find,
this was a school
for kids from the
Chicago Public Schools
who weren't "finding success."

They either had
"learning disabilities," (poor bastards)
meaning they had special needs
that prevented them from succeeding

in public schools

or: they had a "behavior disorder,"
which meant they were fucking
gang-bangers, and were too violent
for CPS.


Holy Jesus!

I was clearly in
over my head.
But they needed
asses in the seats,

and I needed a job.

At the time,
I had long hair
worn in a pony-tail.

Soon enough, come to find,
my nickname was "Bon Jovi."
"Bon Jovi:
get me a pencil."

I was, in a word, hazed.
Working as a Hall Monitor,
in between classes,
David Colon, who had a "behavior disorder,"

an older Hispanic
with huge biceps
and a shaved head

walked past
and casually looked over his shoulder at me
and said
"I can see fear in your eyes

Bon Jovi."
He was right. I was scared shitless!
The curriculum wasn't about learning
but was about "behaving."

The whole idea
was to get them to "behave."

I was assigned "art."
I had to try and teach these kids
"art!" I specialized
in drawing guitars.

Again: "behavior disorder"
meant that if they were too
violent for CPS,
they either could go to jail

or take J.J.'s art class.
When we'd get the counselors
drunk on the weekends,
we'd learn mommy's new

drug-dealing boyfriend
was beating the shit
out of them
and then sexually abusing them.

Holy Jesus.

Reggie the gang-banger
got hip to my milieu
and asked me to write him poems
he could give

to his prospective girlfriends.
I was honored!
I went straight to Motown
and, as a team, we found success.

Until I made the mistake
of writing a poem for
La Shaundria
that was meant for

La Quesha.
Reggie, come to find,
was a player.
I fucked up.

Then he got streamed out
and went to jail.

After a while, I got settled in,
and got accepted.
I got "health"
with the older, bad-ass kids.

The six of us
would sit at a table
working out of the health text.
And then I got cute.

I declared that if any of them
used the word "Nigger,"
they'd get a "time out."
That meant

they'd have to stand
facing the wall, silent,
for three minutes
or accept a harsher sentence.

It got to the point where
I could just raise my eyebrows
and the offender would smile,
look at his bros,

stand up and take the fucking
time out.
This motherfucker who likely
killed some other motherfucker

would get up and take my
time out.
I felt proud.
"OK, Bon Jovi."

Every day
I went to work
I thought
I was gonna die.

But if you find them now,
and ask them
what Van Gogh's favorite color was,
they'll say



J.J. Tindall is the Beachwood's poet-in-residence. He welcomes your comments. Chicagoetry is an exclusive Beachwood collection-in-progress.


More Tindall:

* Chicagoetry: The Book

* Ready To Rock: The Music

* Kindled Tindall: The Novel


Posted on February 14, 2013

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
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SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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