Shay Alexi Stewart "A TREATISE ON TEACHING THIRD GRADE"

A TREATISE ON TEACHING THIRD GRADE
Shay Alexi
I had twenty sons this fall
but they have no roots in my belly;
my body is not their hometown;
they cannot trace the way to their aunt Kelsey’s house
in the subway map of my veins;
I did not birth themthey
are not my sons.
They are not not my sons;
they are my sons with expiration dates.
At 6 o’clock every night grocery store stock clerks
called “mom and dad” or “grandpa” or “sister” move
them up to higher shelves with fresher shit that smells
more like home
and less like the lion lady who rules over math homework and the eight foot high basketball hoop;
they are not my sonsI
inherit them.
I received them like a check from your grandma’s will in which the memo reads
“this is the way life naturally unfolds
this is where you’re meant to be now
and maybe you’ll change the world
but also we all know you need the money”
and I did and I do
so I inherit them.
The little eight year old boy bodies,
not human so much as celestialthey
burn hard,
and I hope they never learn to vacuum themselves up into sky peepholes,
violent things that once were light but
anyway.
My not-sons,
they have started this game where one of them will call me “mommy”
and the others will laugh as I reject him,
“I am not your mother”
what I do not say is
you do not know my womb
it is not your bedroom
it is my temple
didn’t your daddy teach you how to pray
what I do not say is
I do not like this game
because my not-sons,
my not-not-sons,
my tiny human galaxies,
they have not yet seen
that their grandfathers allow maybe-moms
to moonlight as grim reapers
when denying the dying a kidney,
but will foreclose on the organ
my not-sons call home
when they jokingly call me “mommy.”
My not-sons,
my not-not-sons,
my celestial bodies,
they are retelling an old joke.
One came up to me yesterday and said
“Do you know why six is afraid of seven?”
and he meant to say
“eureka”
and he meant to say
“this is new land and here is my flag- listen to it fly!”
My not-sons
they rile up their brethren
to call me that which lies outside of my name
and they think it is a new joke.
“do you know why six is afraid of seven?”
say the men who floss their teeth with my bones
say the men who claim my body is a home
and then demand to occupy it
they do not squat there
they buy it out right
take over my land to build highways that give them a faster commute to workbut
my not-sons
my not-not-sons
they do not know this yet.
They don’t not know it,
but they don’t know it.
They do not know the parts of them that will sufferthe
parts of them that sound like perfume,
the parts of them that sound like the ocean in eclipse,
the parts of them that do not sound like “sons,”
whatever that means.
They try to make me laugh
with the joke their daddy told me,
and their daddy’s daddy told me,
the joke that I am theirs,
but my not-sons,
my not-not sons,
they are still joking.
They have not yet been vacuumed up into sky peepholes,
violent things that once were light;
they do not think I am a plaything;
they think I am the sun.
That is the thing that their daddies forgot.
Big brother forgets,
but they don’t.
They know that they are light,
that I am light,
that we are things less human,
more celestial,
exploding together each day
until six o’clock.
So I do not tie them down with this gravity,
weight that will sink celestial bodies on the basketball court
and when pirouetting on wet linoleum in a bathroom ballet;
I simply say
“I am not your mother”
Today my not-son said
“you are one of my best friends”
and today
that is enough. 

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poetryHannah Schneidershay