See-saw, Margery Daw
You of a certain age remember it
the long wooden board balanced on
a metal fulcrum and holding-on bars
at either end still cold in summer.
You and a friend of approximate
weight taking turns pushing off
with your legs lifting one of you up
to then fall fast and the thrill in your
gut like invading butterflies, the same
whoop you felt when your father sped
down a high hill just so you could have
‘See-saw, Margery Daw
Johnny shall have a new master.
He shall not have a penny a day
Because he can’t saw any faster.’
You learned much later there was no
Margery Daw but sawyers with a two-
person saw, singing it again and again.
Discovered too that those highs
wouldn’t last, like your Dad
who forgot all about joy.
And the chubby dimpled cousin
who always got the better of you
but couldn’t get off the ground.
We laughed hard at her
mean little bastards that we were
and never did feel sorry.
Rusty, too, the kid with so many freckles
they melded into a brown face-puddle
smirking as he jumped off sending you
plummeting to the ground too late for
the rescue of legs, banging the board on
the macadam not cushioned with wood
chips or bouncy rubbery surfaces
slamming your teeth together
the jarring jolt pain shots into your head.
Don’t tell your mother.
Fight your own battles, fists if needed
hiding the bruises from her when you
came home after dark long after being
called in to a now cold dinner or maybe
by Carol A. Amato
Editor’s Note: The careful imagery in this poem sets the framework for the emotional punches that surprise the reader (the father who “forgot all about joy,” the bullying, and the lonely last line). This poem feels real, because it is.