Ten Years This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

Ten years young;
Ready to age a few years older
To grow a few inches taller
So as to slip youthful arms into Daddy's best jacket
Without losing sight of reaching fingertips
In the itchy mess of shirt-cuffs ironed stiff by Momma
And draped over Daddy's favorite wicker chair.

Ten years young;
Ready to grow a few inches taller
To age a few years older
So as to use words like "congressional," and "conclusive"
Without having to dodge invasive hands
Like missiles aimed to ruffle my hair or pinch my cheek
And so as to be listened to when I speak,
To familiarize myself with the way people's eyes never glaze over
Like when they listen to Daddy say his piece.

Ten years young;
Kicking up a confetti of recycled rubber
Pushing higher and spreading airplane wings
Flying unaided, save for an unimpressive splay of seat
And two chains that anchor me to the wooden beam
But just barely -
Until recess is terminated by the shrill bell and I soar.
Two seconds of freedom before I land on the resistant runway
Steering me back into chilly classroom halls.

Ten years young;
Perhaps naive, but knowledgeable enough of the way
Momma purses her lips and wrings her hands
To know that when Teacher's lips don't even try to smile
Something is wrong.
Perhaps naive, but knowledgeable enough to know
That school never ended before lunch
And Momma never cried so much in front of me
As she did that long car ride home.
Knuckles white, she gripped the wheel so hard in one hand
And her brand new phone in the other
And kept starting sentences that she couldn't finish
So I stared out the window and wondered
If it was because I didn't make my bed that morning.

Ten years old;
Still trying to make sense of TV clips
That all show the same shaky image of a burning plane
And great buildings crashing down upon themselves like waves
Of smoke and metal and screams,
Until Momma sobs and throws the remote at the screen again.
Still trying to make sense of a church full of people
And a body made of wax, wearing my Daddy's best jacket
And Momma staring at me like she doesn't know
How to make me understand
When I ask why Daddy isn't at dinner tonight
And if he'll be mad to know that that wax person
Stole his favorite coat.





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