The Little Hand

It's 1996
And I am getting good at telling time
I move my chair to face the clock
and Mr. Somea lets me
He knows I'm waiting
For the little hand to reach ten

The other kids are loud
as they cut out sight-reading words
with safety scissors
when where
which word
you yours

They didn't notice how long it took the big hand
to go around once
Feel the sweep of each synthetic jacket sleeve
as Neighbor Ann held one hand, tugged a cuff,
and then the other

Notice how poorly the overhead light
saturated the four colors
posters, cubbies, pencils
red, yellow, blue, green
Or how, by the time the big hand pointed
at the window, the sun took over

They're still loud until lunchtime
And I don't know anything

I don't know if operations
are bloody
Don't know the sound a scalpel makes
if any
when the surgeon cuts into her head
I know other things

That sometimes medicine works
sometimes it doesn't
And when people go away, they don't
always come back the same

Mom can't hear on one side
and sometimes the headaches make her cry
or cringe
and sleep all the time
I know it's a disease and it has a name

Eight months later my vocabulary
includes the word "seizure"
But I don't know what it looks like
When it happens
On the sidewalk across the street from the school

I know I can run really fast up the hill
I'm not sure but I think it's okay to interrupt the office there
to scream,
"My mom fell down"

I know it'll take twenty years
before the sound of sirens won't remind me
of Mr. Somea kneeling down
"What's the matter? What happened?"
and the look on his face as he turned from me
and ran down the hill

It's 1996
And my dad's friend is buying him Mexican food
in the UCSF hospital cafeteria
In 1992, when my brothers were born
Well, I heard the news of Jeff's lung cyst
Made Dad throw up

But I only heard that from Momo
All Dad ever said was he had Carl's Jr that day
In 1989, when I was born
Well, he had a really good turkey sub from Togo's

And he'd known how to tell time for years

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