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Jennifer Pappas Yennie

After Maggie Smith’s “Not Everything is a Poem”

Let’s start with the stones in his pocket,

the buttons, the seashells, the sequins, the seeds.

Let’s discuss the impulse to pick things up,

finger them covertly, consider for just a moment

whether to let it go

or make it yours.

Let’s talk about the drawer full of acorns and lemons and bouncy balls

and party favors and magnets and valentines…

You know what,

let’s go ahead and cut to the chase—

let’s analyze his tendency to thieve small toys from the classroom,

spiriting them away in his backpack when Mrs. Redanz isn’t looking.

And what about the instinct to lie

about said pilfered items,

the sad resignation on his lamb face

when I tell him they must

be returned?

Let’s make sense of the morning he cried

when I said not only must Rogie Banks

(the name he’s given the faded figurine in blue jeans from the classroom dollhouse)

be returned, but an apology must be made too.

Inconsolable, he asked if he could just return Rogie

when Mrs. Redanz wasn’t looking.

What was I to do?

How could I let the world that seduced him

punish him too?

Must every 5-year-old atone for his sins?

Of course I said yes,

go ahead and return him when she isn’t looking.

“Leave shame to its owners,”[1]

I think as I stoop to give him a kiss,

letting him fold into me as he calms himself,

swipes his tears.

With two faucet breaths, he pivots,

makes his way through the gate.

Across the schoolyard,

Mrs. Redanz turns away.

I smile wider than I should

as he bravely faces whatever comes next,

pockets empty,

waiting for stones.

[1] The line, “Leave shame to its owners” comes from a short story called, “Our Belgian Wife” by Uche Okonkwo


Jennifer Pappas Yennie is a California-based poet and teacher whose poetry has appeared in a variety of literary journals and magazines including ZYZZYVA, The Ana, and Faraway Journal. I am currently putting the finishing touches on a collection of centos I wrote mining my own daily notebooks for poetic lines.


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