It started out as a small hole,
just enough to slip a finger into
on her left sleeve near the seam. Mrs. Keen
was all riled up about something, parading
back and forth at the front of the class
lecturing rules, her captive audience
in their neat desks in perfect rows
hands behind their backs.
You must never push one another in line.
She punctuated every word with her index finger,
like she was slicing carrots in the kitchen.
You must line up neatly,
and I don’t want to hear a word
not one word
from any of you as you enter the school.
You must remain in single file.
This girl’s eyes traced the teacher’s movements
across the floor, back and forth.
She had three fingers into the hole
in her sleeve now, and a thread was
working loose. She tugged it
with her other hand and felt it begin
Thou shalt not play,
thou shalt not be happy,
thou shalt not eat thy sweater,
she thought, trying to suppress the urge
to giggle, but a snort snuck out
and the teacher whirled, pinning her
with her eyes. She put on a blank face
and stared innocently at the wall,
slightly over the teacher’s left shoulder.
When Mrs. Keen had safely resumed
the girl slipped her left hand
in front of her face and nibbled
on the loose sweater string. Saliva
mixed with acrylic yarn mixed with
magenta dye and the feeling between her teeth
was indescribably sensual. She wanted
to swallow but resisted the urge. She tugged
to draw out some more yarn and she chewed
the sweater her grandma had made for her,
because you are my joy, my brown-eyed girl
and she tasted the specialness of it, the
colour chosen just for her, the warmth
and the apple smell of her grandma’s breath
that she wasn’t going to smell again
because her grandma was dead now,
in the ground
and she was just another unruly kid
in grade five without a grandma.
January 28, 2009