True Story

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In memory of Anthony Lamar Smith.

I.

Patterns are important.

They trained us to use stickers
stuck to name tags to create
stucked mosaics of remembering
that I was they were we had been stuck
together.

The un-unstuckable promise of future stuckiness.

II.

I am the
Friday Man the
Story Man the
Teller Man
with the
books and the
bag and the
voice of bears in my chest.
I am the
unconditioner the
constant visitor the
indescriminate huggerer.

I am (also) the
White.

III.

A favorite is The Monster at the End of This Book
when they’re eager to look beyond This Page despite
Grover’s growing fear and rage at their strength and
power, and fervor to see the next and reach the end.
Laughter in the face of danger.

They squeal when I ask if they’re sure, should I
turn, do we dare, is it safe, aren’t you scared?
No! They are brave, they don’t care, it’s a story and
a show and I am there to protect them.
And, anyway, monsters aren’t really real.

IV.

I can’t understand
a word he says but
that doesn’t stop him
talking from the moment
I enter the classroom,
throughout each book.

As the others fidget
in a bulbous line
waiting
for their stickers
I see his hand slide
into my peripheral
(as I’ve slid into his)
to grab a sheet of Minions with guitars,

soon
followed by a finger pressed carefully
onto my shoulder so
the sticker will be stuck, and
never leave.

V.

The verdict wasn’t surprising but
the tears were unexpected because
this, too, has become
a pattern that won’t unstuck.
Injustice that never leaves,
pressed too long along
the peripheral of they who judge.
And he is brave and he is bold
which is, now, met with joy
because this boy has been told
(and believes)
that
I will protect
him.
But, dear God,
how real are these monsters?
How close, with every page?

peevish

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and my son said his was people who say ‘baggies’
but i thought peeves would be more prevalent
and i replied ‘you must know more drug dealers than i do’
and i imagined wesley snipes new jacking with ‘baggies’
and ice-t laughing in his face
but my son had lost interest

Campcraft

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Cardboard as tinder, strips tightly
wound and set amongst the ashes, like
a pan of cinnamon rolls.
My fingers, uncharacteristically sure
of themselves, place kindling within the whorls;
sticks and twigs he gathered and
left as an uncertain offering at my feet.

It catches, the fire.
Licks and bites and snaps,
crawls and claws its way from
base to wisping logs in a
desperate clutch.

It’s a thing I know:
heat, fuel, air is a fire.
So few equations seem as reliable, now;
unexpected results, ineffectual and
laughable, in-my-faceable.
But this
one thing
I can do.

His equation has grown exponentially,
from heat, fuel, and air to givens
I no longer recognize,
variables I don’t understand.

And so my fingers shake as I lay his kindling in
precarious motion,
fearful
of stifling and
squandering and
leaching
until all that remains is my
desperate clutch.

Sicilian Wit

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I blame Sophia.
If Dorothy was quick
her mother was prescient,
only waiting long enough to bind
her barb in space and time,
and so affirm causality.

After a lifetime
mainlining marathon reruns
her spirit rides my soul,
goading me with a beaded purse while
sotto-voccing snide rejoinders
into the minutest caesura of life.

She will not be silenced.

Yet

this pillar of faith, loitering
in the House of God turns in his pew
to dismiss these lawless thugs

this servant of community, rotating
my tires warns of their
parasitism and lack of insurance

this bumper of a judge-not worshiper, proclaiming
‘BAN THEM’ throughout the church parking lot
but never, no never, our guns

I am silenced.