Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Winners and Losers

In a school with clouded windows,
lead-ridden water fountains, and
missing bathroom doors,
a wise little boy drags his bookbag behind him.
He is yelled at to walk, to hurry,
to pick up his bag, to listen,
to be a big boy
more like his brother
more like the other boys, he
shuffles his feet to the finish line:
boys on one side, girls on the other.
The boys lose again, his teacher reminds them.
The girls smile, give high-fives, he
is ready to walk to after-school,
can almost taste the Kool-Aid and graham crackers on his tongue
when he realizes he
forgot his hat.

“S-sometime we win, s-sometime we lose,” he reminds me.

While the children scramble
to get to their seats by the teacher's count of
five seconds, four, three, two…
the wise little boy is left standing alone
tripping on chair legs and dropping papers behind him.
He is mocked by his classmates
ridiculed by his teacher
wanting to be a big 2nd grade boy, his
face sinks into despair
tears form but he's
too much of a man to let them fall.
His round brown eyes catch
and hold me
stabbing repeatedly in my chest.
He talks under his breath
twists his pencil in grubby hands
trips on untied shoelaces
and finally spies his chair
on the other side of the room.

“S-sometime we win, s-sometime we lose,” he reminds me.

"Is that the way it is?” I ask
resting my hand on his shoulder.
He doesn’t answer but stares off,
talking under his breath about
pigs and movies,
guns and his father.
He draws pictures during spelling:
guns and blood and dying men.
He daydreams during math
two plus two is:
Fourteen mens who is dyin'?
Between stumbling over words during reading,
he asks me whether I've ever seen a rat
cause there was one, bigger than a cat in his kitchen
but he didn't scream, 'cause he's a man like his daddy and
daddy doesn't like babies
and his daddy
is better than the 'Credible Hulk
and he's saving his milk from lunch
to drink at home during dinner and
during science, just when I think he's about to understand
that plants need dirt, and sun, and water,
he asks me
"why can't you be my mother?"

I take a breath
he looks away
a brave little boy with the same damn refrain:
"s-sometime we win, s-sometime we lose," he reminds me.

1 comment:

  1. The first two stanzas were me. Hugs