Quiet cinder of shame, until a young boy finds the will
to hit back. Except. Suspended from school, that’s what.
They don’t care who or how. Accept.
He wants a Tums to help him sleep—he likes its soft sound
taste. The photo of courage has no negative, cannot be
reproduced like a trick from an old comic book.
He doesn’t want this to become what it already is: a lesson.
He still sleeps with a stuffed dog, though that’s a secret.
What happened today is not. It will always be with him,
stone worn smooth in the surf but stone
nonetheless. Nothing will hurry sleep tonight.
He asks. I tuck him in.
They’re all on the same team
my daughter says,
flowers tilting toward her
from market stalls
in bright frazzle, scented chaos
her blonde hair unfurled,
her flag as she herself bends
Neighbors’ laundry soaked by rain.
Burn of their screams chars our dinner,
anger shaking petals off our roses
on the fence line. Why do they fight?
our daughter asks. I warned them,
my wife says, I’d call the cops.
Their clothes are drenched, our son says.
When the neighbors crash into silence,
we hear the rain again. I wore those clothes
myself once. Our son would eat frozen corn
straight from the bag if we’d let him,
and tonight we do.
Jim Daniels’ recent poetry books include Rowing Inland and Street Calligraphy, 2017, and The Middle Ages, 2018. He is the author of five collections of fiction, four produced screenplays, and has edited five anthologies, including Challenges to the Dream: The Best of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Writing Awards, a competition for high school and college students that he founded in 1999. His next collection of short fiction, The Perp Walk, will be published by Michigan State University Press in 2019.