This selection, chosen by Managing Editor Krista Cox, is from Lucky by Amy Watkins, released by Bottlecap Press in 2019. Each poem is an answer to a prompt from Facebook’s “Did You Know” widget, innocuous questions that become risky when answered honestly: “A toy I always wanted but never had,” “One thing my dad always told me,” “If I could bring one person back to life…” The past, like the rural Florida landscape, is beautiful and dangerous.
A subject I always hated in school…
I was a homeschool kid, and the first day of fifth grade
was my first day of real school. I carried a large purple
pencil box, like a plastic briefcase, that fit exactly
in the desk tray above my knees. The box had compartments
for pencils and markers, two slots in the plastic
dividers for a 12-inch ruler, and a rectangular space
exactly the right size for crayons in their box.
I had 48, new and perfect, arranged by color.
At the front of the pencil box, to each side
of the ruler, were small, square compartments.
In the left, erasers, the kind that pop on top of pencils.
In the right, an anthropomorphized plastic cherry
with sneakers and a ridiculous, leering face,
like a California Raisin. We weren’t allowed toys
at our desks, and I don’t know why my grandmother,
who bought my school supplies, gave me this thing,
forbidden as well as hideous, not her style or mine,
but it fit perfectly in that small compartment
where nothing practical did, so I kept it there all year.
I had fantasized about school as long as I could
remember. I knew my teachers would be kind
and stern. I knew I would make one true friend.
I had not imagined so many rules, spoken and
unspoken, like the toy ban or the popularity
of $30 Guess Jeans t-shirts tucked in, sleeves rolled.
I never guessed there would be a wrong answer to
“What’s your favorite color?” Already, I was learning.