Monday, December 12, 2011

"The Bad Boy"

You pull all the books off the library shelves
You sprawl on the floor, then jump up and
Turn a chair on its head,
You hug other children until you topple them over,
You roll up the rug, then you roll yourself
Until I scoop you up,
Put you on my lap,
And say, "Look at me, look at me,"
But you don't.
"Look at me," I say.
But you won't.
"You're being very wild," I say.
Are you even listening?
I can feel the shivers bouncing through your body,
Your blood gushing like a rushing little brook
That slaps at every rock and bug and leaf it can reach.
You push out of my arms and laugh,
Flying around the tables,
Little velcro sneakers barely touching the floor,
You throw your head back as if to breathe beyond the stale classroom air,
And I see your eyes dart rapidly,
Looking for somewhere to run to,
For some way of expressing your jubilation at being alive and three,
And there they are--
In one smooth bound, you sail from the tables to the toy chest in the corner
Upon which the class's art from that day is resting to dry.
You fling your hands into the glittered paper
And toss the projects like a salad,
Grinning and breathing fast like a train,
And like a train, the teacher screeches upon you,
Yet I am the one caught in the headlights,
As she picks you up and plops you on the floor in the corner,
Reprimands shooting out of her mouth like sharp rocks,
And you sit there looking up at her,
Still with that grin.
I think: your grin turns those sharp rocks into boomerangs of nonsense.
Do you even know you are in trouble?
Can a boy be bad if he does not know he is being bad?
And as you sit there on the floor wearing that persistent grin,
I see you in elementary school--
The kid in the rickety chair (it is always rickety, isn't it?) when everyone else sits on the rug,
And in high school--
Slamming into lockers while the others are in class,
And I think--this is your future--
Sharp-rock reprimands and time-outs in the corner--
Because grown-ups will not often understand you,
And teachers will have to worry about the other 25 children in their class,
So they will unintentionally fail you,
Unless you get lucky, and maybe have a teacher who knows a child like you at home,
And I wonder--like you wriggled off my lap,
Will you wriggle free from being branded the bad boy?