Excerpt #112, Rocking-Chair Moon

Boaster-Come-Lately
—Ben

Grandpa always ridiculed those boastful
Ask Me About My Grandkids
bumper stickers.

He always said he wouldn’t blemish
the beauty of the Beetle’s bumper with one.

But when he came to visit this morning
I noticed he’d replaced his faded old
Fish Tremble at My Approach

with a bright new
Ask Me About My Great Grandson.

Tolovana Sunset
—Carly

Day fades, Ethan rides
Ben’s shoulders, making gull sounds.
Surf bursts with laughter.

Second Time Around
—Ben

I’d heard the old saying that
what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,
and in my head I guess I believed that,
but my heart wasn’t so sure,
at least about this one thing,
this college thing,
because even though
my last academic experience didn’t kill me
(quite),
it didn’t make me stronger, either,
it made me weaker
and more vulnerable and reckless.

A nail, waiting for the hammer.

But I have a new family now,
a family of dreamers,
and their optimism is rubbing off on me,
and when Megan told me
you have to give it another try,
you deserve to be in school,
after what you’ve been through
it will be like kindergarten
(where I spent two years but she’s
yet to hear that bit of history),
while Ethan just nodded and looked at me
all serious and big-eyed,
like why wouldn’t you want to be in school?
So what other choice did I have?

I went for it.

I’m still not a college natural,
a comfortable fit, a scholar,
by any stretch of anyone’s imagination,
but this time, in spite of
an occasional rude glance in my direction
(there are bigger freaks than me),
I want to be here, learning stuff
I once was certain I already knew.
This time I’m not irrationally weighed down
with worries about the next death in the family
or bears or bogeymen or bad girlfriends
or bullshit artists
giving me the old bait-and-switch.

Paper predators.

This time I’m looking through other eyes,
enjoying fresh viewpoints,
learning to dream on my own,
finding the strength to climb more hills
and see what’s on the other side.
It took me a while
—almost too long—and I needed some help,
but what I’ve learned, finally,
is that none of the old stuff
scares me anymore, not really,
what I’ve learned is that the scariest thing,
scarier than what I’ve lived through
and imagined,

is being ignorant,
and not knowing it.

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