First Day of Kindergarten

—en listening? Hello?

I look left and right.

I’m in my house?
My sister is in front
of me, and we’re on the porch,
for some reason.

Where’s Mike?

Who’s Mike?

We were just… he was helping me jump.
We were on the monkey bars.

Who the heck is Mike?

He’s… we were…
I sit on the swing
and look up at her.
There’s a plate in my hand
with little bits of carrots on it.
What’s happening?

She throws her hands
in the air. Tell Mom. Maybe
you can get her to listen to you.

My brother walks out of the kitchen.
She runs over to him.

I stay on the swing
and Mom doesn’t come.
I have to go to her office
in the basement.

She turns around in her chair.
What’s up, Pumpkin?

I—I was at recess
and Mike was helping me on the monkey bars and then all of a sudden
I was upstairs.
I was on the porch.

What do you mean, Sweetheart?
And who’s Mike? Is he your new friend?

Mike, uhm… Chinooga.
He’s in my class…
but you’re not listening.

I don’t know how I got home!
I don’t know if I said goodbye
to anybody, and maybe everyone’s
mad at me and…

I start crying.

Mom leans over and pulls
me onto her lap. She sighs and I feel her breath
on my hands. Okay, Pumpkin.
You got home the way your brother
got home: you both got on the bus
and met me down the street.
Then you came inside and had a snack
on the porch. Does that sound right?

No! I don’t remember anything!

She sighs again.
Okay, well. I’m sure
it will come back to you.

I sit in the corner.
The monkey bars. I was on the monkey bars.
Mike was showing me how to run
and jump and catch the bar
in mid-air, and I was so scared
I couldn’t jump into them,
I had to get right under
and jump from there.
Maybe that’s what did it.
Maybe if I just jumped
when I was supposed to
I’d still be on the playground.

I look at the walls: Mom’s portrait
of Nellie Bly looks back
through me, at the other wall.
The chair creaks when I turn.
I look at the clock: 3:30.
Mom turns around.

You have to leave Mama
alone now, Pumpkin, she says.
So I can get back to work.

But what if I get up
and and when I leave
I go somewhere else?

Mom smiles and doesn’t say
anything for a second.

Maybe you can be a big boy
and watch your sister climb
the monkey bars in the park?

Added: January 2, 2013 | Last changed: January 23, 2015