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Tuesday, January 14, 2020
A New Poem that Clarifies Why I Had Bladder Problems During First Grade
I know that the title of this blog post sounds strange, but you'll understand it once you've read my newest poem about one of my oldest memories:
The Star’s Shadow
by Susan L. Lipson
I stared upward at the gold, foil star stuck proudly below my bitten fingernails, to the right of my one wrinkled thumb, and now held aloft in my first-grade teacher’s tight grip.
“Look at this! This is yesterday’s star for spelling!” she announced. Everyone looked at my treasured sign of specialness. Except me. I looked at the teacher’s downturned lips and her wrinkled nose. My skinny arm trembled in her grasp.
She clucked her tongue and asked, for everyone to hear: “Why did you leave it on your hand? Don’t you wash every day?” Everyone looked at our teacher’s grimace. Except me. I looked down at my desk, where a big teardrop had just plopped onto the math quiz she had just delivered, marked with a few red x’s, and no smiley face.
I had washed my hand. But I had washed around the star.
“Children,” she asked with scary sweetness, still gripping my wrist, “remember our lesson on the importance of cleanliness?” Everyone nodded. Except me. I was clenching my teeth, trying not to blink, so that tears wouldn’t spill.
My teacher clucked her tongue again, dropped my hand, and strutted off to the next desk, to deliver the next graded math paper.
Hiding my right hand under my desk, I pinched off the star, folded it into itself, hid it in my pocket, and then tried to rub off its grayish, adhesive outline. I wanted to go wash off the star’s shadow in the girls’ bathroom. But I was too afraid to raise my hand to ask permission.
Have you ever dug into your past as I have in this poem, to examine the profundity of relatively mundane moments that influenced your evolution? Try walking in your smallest shoes again so you can see your little child self with new empathy.