Elizabeth Thomas is a widely published poet, performer, advocate of the arts and teacher. The author of two previous poetry collections, she has read her work throughout the United States and has been a member of three Connecticut National Poetry Slam teams. In 1998 she was a member of the U.S. team that traveled to Sweden. Much of her energy and time is devoted to designing and teaching writing programs for schools and organizations in many parts of the country. These programs promote literacy and the power of the written and spoken word. As an outstanding advocate of youth in the arts, Elizabeth Thomas is a coach and organizer with Brave New Voices: International Youth Poetry Slam and Festival. She is also the founder of UpWords Poetry, a company dedicated to promoting programs for young writers and educators, based on the belief that poetry is meant to be heard out loud and in person. She hosts a website at www.upwordspoetry.com.
LIES MY MOTHER TOLD ME
I WANT TO SAY
First his, then mine, then sometimes
His T-shirt says, “I am God”
and I think - My lucky day!
I’ll run up,
shake his hand,
ask for an autograph.
I might never have this chance again.
But, as God sits there
waiting to step into the Vice Principal’s office,
I look closely at his faded T-shirt
two sizes too big,
sneakers older than he is,
thin legs swinging
barely long enough to reach the floor,
dirty hands massaging a dirty forehead and think
This is not God.
This is a little boy
who maybe swore in the lavatory
or tussled on the playground.
A child who probably forgot to eat breakfast,
did not expect a good-bye kiss.
When he gets home from school today
he’ll let himself in with the key
that hangs around his neck.
He might help himself to Twinkies
and a glass of Coke,
a micro-waved pizza in front of the TV.
As he struggles to raise his head
the circles under his eyes
slope toward his chin,
pick up the lines around his mouth
and carry it down as well.
It’s not easy taking care of the world.
Using the back of his hand
he trails snot and tears across his face,
into his hair,
which heads out in all directions
as if just lifted from a pillow.
He looks neglected
like homework after a long weekend.
This boy ain’t been loved in a long time.
I want to walk over,
kneel on both knees,
use my sleeve to clean his cheeks,
tie his sneakers.
He looks up
and in his eyes
I see my own son.
Unable to look away,
I want to say something,
make some excuse,
beg for forgiveness.
But, this is God.
What could I possibly say
he does not already know?