Big the river

Big the river

Not so, the town

Maybe five thousand

Souls, all ’round

County seat all the same

Courthouse, grain elevator

There in the midwestern

United States of America

Where the corn grows high

And the beans down low

For miles and miles

Row by row

I grew too

A pencil line at a time

Up the light brown board

Beside the door they climbed

‘Til long about nineteen and seventy-eight

I didn’t want to go

But also couldn’t wait

Public kindergarten

My own art box

Of crayons and markers

Erasers, ruler, chalk

To drop crash-bang!

On the hallway tiling

Treasures scattered among the shoes

Of other children laughing, smiling

First encounters with casual cruelty

With man’s


To man

And the fact

That I was well-spoken

Knew some numbers, all the letters

Just made me the brunt of jokes and

When in first grade they

Took naptime away

I cried and cried, of course I cried

At lunch most every day

Gym class was…

A special hell

Where brilliant me failed

As all others excelled

I could barely run

Couldn’t catch or throw

Always last to be picked

First to get a bloody nose

I wore glasses, I grew chubby

All I wanted was to eat and to read books

Wherein lay wonders and new knowledge

Everywhere you looked

Well, life is long, and in its fullness

One comes into one’s own

I hardly think of those years

Now that I am grown

Yet doubtless, doubtless, somewhere in me

Is still that little boy

Crying for nap at lunch

And books his only joy


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