In memory of Anthony Lamar Smith.
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
The un-unstuckable promise of future stuckiness.
I am the
Friday Man the
Story Man the
books and the
bag and the
voice of bears in my chest.
I am the
constant visitor the
I am (also) the
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.
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
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,
followed by a finger pressed carefully
onto my shoulder so
the sticker will be stuck, and
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
I will protect
But, dear God,
how real are these monsters?
How close, with every page?
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
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
It’s a thing I know:
heat, fuel, air is a fire.
So few equations seem as reliable, now;
unexpected results, ineffectual and
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
of stifling and
until all that remains is my