Mrs. Lewis would say whenever we asked,
Can I use the restroom? in 7th grade math,
forcing us to say may we, which we reenacted
repeatedly, but never forgot. Aaron sat between
Trish and me on the row closest to the door, with
his shiny brown hair slicked back and wearing 
polyester plaid high-water pants. His job
was as go-between for passing carefully folded
notes, his low arm-swing casual but calculated.
He took his job seriously, as we did ours; 
for most every class, while Mrs. Lewis stood 
at the board, he would begin an almost inaudible
humming of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” Sometimes,
amid the din of passing Tyson Chicken trucks, 
she would turn. She would ask if someone said 
something, and we knew she had heard him. 
We always shook our heads no and shrugged. 
Our unspoken agreement held fast, balancing
our young selves on the edges of how we can
learn the rules, how we may break them, and 
how we could and might be heard. 


disguised as your life, dressed
in a heavy robe of red silk brocade
with pockets, inside and out, filled
with wine corks and old keys, your
son’s baby teeth and your first
engagement ring, your mom’s
damp cocktail napkin, your dad’s
1972 McGovern pin, and a crumpled
pack of Marlboro Lights, until the day
comes you begin to empty every
pocket piece by piece. You hold
each in your palm, pausing
before the clatter to the floor,
before stopping to slide the silk
robe off your shoulders,
to realize you are left
as you’ve always been,
perfect. Holy.

About the Author

Ellis Elliott is a poet, writing group facilitator at bewildernesswriting.com, and ballet teacher. She has a blended family with six grown sons. She has an M.F.A. from Queens University, is a contributing writer for the Southern Review of Books, and section editor for The Dewdrop contemplative journal.

Feature image by Manuchi / Pixabay