Autumn cool, edge of ice on the playground puddles
we line up, first grade boys,
the girls on the other side,
waiting the morning bell the big double
doors to open to the red brick school.
Squinting into the light
I am “four-eyes” clumsy
heavy lenses in clear-plastic frames,
an opaque patch
remedial over one eye
so to teach the other one.
A fifth grader, older, bigger,
unconcerned about laws of the line,
comes up to me threatening in his presence.
Behind him, a flamboyant maple
gives up a few more of its crimson leaves,
drops them down
to the collection-in-progress at its roots.
He hawks and blow-guns a thick glob of spit
onto my face, my glasses,
the one clear lens and the opaque patch.
Helpless, I wish a barren wish
for a parent, an adult, a bigger friend
someone to make me clean again,
I remove my glasses, feel the glooey slime
in my fingers,
wipe them on my pants,
and know myself dirty the rest of the day.
Having made his introduction, he seeks me out
on other mornings, asks for my money
and I acquiesce
all my pennies,
even three nickels
sometimes a dime.
Days pass, the maple gives up being flamboyant
and I forget.
until he reappears
I stumble over my discomfort,
like stumbling over the pronunciation of a word
like “sharing” the meaning of which I’m now unsure,
something I thought I had learned.
I choose another, smaller boy;
go to him and ask, “What money do you have?”
No threat, I’m just bigger with a question.
He hands it over like he’s lost a game
and so on other days, I do it again.
One Saturday his mother comes to visit mine.
It has to be her ‘cause I recognize the boy in tow.
I am on the dead grass of the front lawn
watch them coming down the street.
She with an expression of determination and something more,
approaches, and with a wordless glance,
teaches me the feel of shame
before I understand
the reason for it.
My mother greets them at the door
they enter and I am summoned.
Why did I do it? they ask.
So I tell them of the older boy.
And in the telling I learn the feel of another word
long before the spelling.
Then it stops; the other boy no longer seeks me out
all the leaves are gone, we’re in winter jackets now
the skies flat November grey,
a dull-matte diffusion of light,
like heaven might appear
through the patch I am supposed to wear
remedial over one eye
so to teach the other.
Excerpt from Sad Songs from Hush River. In appreciation of National Poetry Month, this and twenty other poems are available at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/471447
A special award of appreciation to the first readers to write reviews (can be short blurbs) of the book of poetry on the smashwords site.