Poetry 2014 / Volume 45

Inner City Tale — Dennis Trudell

The boy knows he isn’t the only
one in the classroom with a father
in prison. But he feels the others
don’t think much about that. He
didn’t either until this year, seventh
grade, when he often wonders what
his father is doing right now. How
hard this minute is. And now this
one, this one… Do some press
at the sides of Dad’s head until he
can barely keep from screaming?
Do they at times seem something
solid he can’t help inhaling, though
they make him gag? Maybe he has
a way of going numb when things
get too bad, like counting backwards
in his mind from a thousand. Or
closing his eyes and seeing in his
mind a night full of stars. The boy
closes his and is trying to do that
when he hears the teacher say his
name. No, he won’t open them:
he’s suddenly certain Dad needs
his help and that he’s sending it
the only way he can. He imagines
stars as salt on a black tablecloth—
but the teacher’s louder voice
bursts through it. “Shut up!
the boy shouts. No one sees him
bearing a small smile after being
sent to the principal’s office
and from there to a small room
by himself for the rest of the day.

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