Monday, September 22, 2014

Anne Graue


She knew she had done something
wrong; her knees reddened
by the knobby carpet that hid
the hard linoleum, cold and grey
that was probably white
once. She had written on her desk

with blue marker, and now
that desk scrubbed clean
was gone; no desk
until the second grade, so far away,
replaced by stares and glares
from teachers passing by, other kids,
the principal. Her teacher grinned

the toothy grin of Cruella De Vil,
acted nice in front of others
reminded them that transgression
was rewarded with pain—
humiliation of a pariah—
and one must learn even at six
that consequences exist
for every action and that someone
else is always in charge. She thought

her teacher might have a dungeon
at her house, or beneath the school;
she searched for the trap door
always looking down to avoid it—
the inevitable dropping into the dark—
that would most surely be reported
to her mother, who asked
about her day, every day,
and whether school was good
—she always replied that it was—
it was fine and if it would be okay
she would like to start wearing
long pants to school
instead of the dresses
she had picked out at the store
at the bright back-to-school counter
where all of the possibilities
of first grade had shone
right in front of her.

Anne reads "First Grade Criminal":

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Anne confesses: "Incited by an article about a first-grade girl punished for writing on her desk, I wrote from this limited point of view; I wanted to explore the girl's thoughts as I imagined them. She had fallen prey to a megalomaniacal teacher and an oblivious parent."

Originally from Kansas, ANNE GRAUE lives, writes, and teaches online from her home in New York's Hudson Valley. Her poems have appeared in Compass Rose, Sixfold Journal, New Verse News, and The Five-Two. She will have poems in the summer issue of Ginosko Literary Journal. She is a reviewer for


S.E.Ingraham said...

Oh my Anne - your excellent poem snapped ME all the way back to grade one in the mid-fifties. I wrote on my desk (scratched it actually with a metal barrette) - my punishment was to have the top covered by huge white sheet of paper and the desk shoved to the back of the room for parents' night and in block letters a sign that read, "Sharon H's desk cannot be with the rest of the children's as she has scarred it too badly" (I'm paraphrasing, but you get the gist.) My mother was furious - she suspected this woman was a tyrant but up until then had no proof (even tho' I'd been telling her how she put the "retarded" kid in the cloakroom in the dark all the time). Mom tried to get this woman fired for years to no avail (along with several others who tormented my brother who had learning disabilities) - back then, it was pretty much impossible and shame was a valid "teaching" tool. I cringed reading your poem. You have captured that emotion perfectly. Well done.

AG said...

I think the fact that this type of shaming still occurs in classrooms made me stop and wonder if it will ever end. The only recourse this child's parents had was to move her to another school, also cruel in taking her away from what she knows and her friends. Thank you for your comment and so sorry that so many have had to go through this.