Benjamin’s Lessons

Joseph Hardy

I missed Benjamin today,
a first-grader I help with reading
who likes poop jokes.

They tend to begin like this—Benjamin,
if you gave this U.S. State a nickname,
what would it be?

Poop, he says, or sometimes Butt.

At the end of our half-hour, Benjamin likes to draw mazes
I can’t get out of. He closes the exit with his magic marker
Just before I get there.

Or he draws the triangular symbol of poop
and leaves me in the middle of it, teaching me
how it feels to be powerless.

Having learned this well as a child, I understand
when he asks, on completing a workbook page,
Can I Benjamin-Scribble it?

Then, with my approval, he blots out every question
and all of his correct required answers
to make the page his own.

Joseph Hardy lives in Nashville, Tennessee. His work has been published in: Appalachian Review, Cold Mountain Review, Inlandia, Poetry City, and Poetry Lore among others. He is the author of a book of poetry, The Only Light Coming In, Bambaz Press Los Angeles, 2020.


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