At the door
we’re to bow, say "Hello, Sir,"
"Hello, Ma’am" to
no one in particular. We
year-olds imitate the master’s combination:
a series of kicks and punches
punctuated by those yells
heard in movies. "Atten-
he cries, and they leap. "Yes, Sir!"
they cry—jumping up and down—collapsing
off the floor, a loop of film seen over
from a bench,
backs to the wall,
learn what uniforms have to tell:
colors signal levels of buy-in; belts, badges,
stripes announce each child’s
proficiency. The close-
clipped salesman chats
with my uncombed teen, chides
him at "yeah," then asks,
does he clean his room,
turn off the TV, listen at home
and respect his mother?
To which the fast liar replies, "Yes, Sir."
From Obstructed View (Fireweed Press, 2009).
This poem first appeared in Cup of Poems.
Used here with the author’s permission.