Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.

—Albert Einstein


The first letter of the alphabet, scrawled

in ink the color of the blood

you might as well have spilled

in the struggle to attain that grade.

Those all-so-important numbers staring back at you

from a computer screen, eighteen days after


you sat down in a nondescript high school classroom,

having woken for battle before the dawn,

clutching a number two pencil and calculator

like you did your stuffed panda when you were five.

That email that had you refreshing your inbox

every free moment you got on December 15, or April 1.


It used to be you could know

whether or not you were worthy,

whether or not you were wanted,

just from the weight of the envelope

the mailman just dropped in your mailbox,

unaware that it was not just another bill,


but the final arbiter of your destiny.

Was it thick like the information packets

that crowded the mailman's satchel

like pigeons crowd the blind old man tossing

breadcrumbs onto the street,

or thin like a card from Grandma,


the only person whose opinion of you won't change,

no matter what is in the envelope?

Nowadays you have to wait

for the message to load, trembling

in anticipation, like an impetuous groom

on his wedding morning,


and scan the first line

and therein find the answer to the question

they say will hound you forever, determining

what people think of you, who you're friends with,

where you live, what you do everyday from nine till five:

And where did you go to school?


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