True Story

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
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


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
never leave.


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)
I will protect
But, dear God,
how real are these monsters?
How close, with every page?