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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained


By Ashley L. Gong, Contributing Writer

Lights up. Two men walk into a bar,
and the first says, serve me. And the second
refuses, slices juices from his hand. They
dissolve into saliva, fumes, the morning breath
of a brandished cock. The air stings with
glittering teeth, maelstrom of vicious skirts.
Look at my skin. Infringe me not.


A furniture store opens, and the owner
takes lunch break. The tables flirt sideways,
scratch scars against acne blooms. The dagger
remains in Miami, sends tough love to Chicago.
Roosevelt paces across an empty room, says
cough up more. We are glamorous and gun-
shot blue. The voice, I am your favorite son.


In Detroit, the factory sinks into its haunches,
loads blanks into a remorseless sky. They fall,
numbed and unfeeling, crawling through the
shredded wind. The boy strokes the snout
of an aging father, intones yes. Gloria patri.
Patriae. The house leans against itself, rusted
with June flies. Carry on, it repeats.


Class was dismissed early today. The school
bells hang stone-silent in their sockets, flag
lowering its bruised scalp. Children plaster
headlines over bloodshot eyes, blended gray.
Mommy, I’m okay, but all my friends are dead,
says the milk carton. The straw responds
with a single finger. Come now, it beckons.


We file into the pews, envelopes stacked and
waiting. We lick the seals like wolves, racked
with falling sobs. I catch one, and it ribbons
into another, and another, until the history of
mourning spills into my lap. I head to Latin.
E pluribus unum. If I had a coin, If I had
a bill for every—I’d be dry and second


The faces become billboards, bloated with
human content. This is business, this is
remembering, soap opera that ends &
ends & remains. Pause the channel. Start
anew. Season two. Three. The radio
plays the same song, frowning dirge. I’m
sick of that song. I’m sick of the sublime.


November arrives, but the punchline does not.
The waves crash against themselves, repeat
against a defenseless sand. We skip stones,
puncture each pocket of water. The wound rushes,
and we aim silver trumpets. Listen. The paper
remains eerily dry. Our tongues unsheathe dripping.
Knock my teeth out. Blackout.

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