True lessons

‘Dad!’ said Aaron (he’s five),
‘I bet I can beat you to the grocery store door!’
‘What’s the use?’ I laughed, preparing,
knowing exactly what was written in the moment.
‘I know—that you know—that I know,
that you will always—WIN!’
And on that word “win”
I dashed and he dashed
and in all that dashing together
the simple difference in our heights
added up to a tragic occurrence:
his fist smashed me in my crotch.

Calming him down afterwards was the second hardest part,
‘It’s OK, hon, it was only an accident…
I’ll be able to breathe in a minute.’

Which just goes to show you that, one,
you don’t always know what is written in the moment,
and that, two,
you’d do it all over again.
I know—that you know—that even I know—

(But not that hard, and please God,
not soon.)

Sad to say, but this is a true story which played out exactly as I have described it. I hesitated posting it as I very rarely try to be funny in poetry.

Howard Nemerov was twice Poet Laureate to the Library of Congress, a Pulitzer Prize winner and a Stanford professor professor of Literature. He is, however, a poet I have to be very careful of because his style, which often uses humor to get its point across, is both infectious and contagious. My fear is that while writing very bad authentic Etheridge is at least honorable, writing very bad Nemerov is despicable.

So, if you know of Nemerov’s work and you think True lessons a pale imitation of it, please, do me a favor and keep it to yourself, because in the end, it’s a great story and it’s my story. Well, ours anyway.

Thank you for reading True lessons. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge,


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