Volume 68, Number 2 · Spring 2019

What Do You Say, Daniel?

Did he do it? Everybody knows he did.
His face pops up on his mother’s phone again—
her jolt of love, spritz of anxiety.
She’s being summoned, parents are gathering
for the ceremony of a child’s apology,
her boy too-stiffly six for cuddling,
who grips his shard of stone but won’t confess.
Somebody scratched the side of a neighbor’s car.

She stands beside him, careful, leaving space.
Here come the twins, Haya, Hannah, dropping
their bikes on the sidewalk as they leap—
glitter sandals over spinning spokes—
to take their place among the gathering,
everyone waiting for her child to speak.
She knows which mornings he will drag his hand
along the schoolbus’s yellow crossing arm,
then climb into the bus as if he’s tired.

Does anyone think he’s cute, almost?
Curly black hair, thick lashes as he looks down,
about to whisper something to the ground.
Soon she’ll step closer, steer him gently away,
Haya, Hannah jump on their bikes and fly.


Debra Bruce’s most recent book is Survivors’ Picnic, and her poems appear widely in journals including the Cincinnati Review, Innisfree Poetry Journal, Mezzo Cammin, Poetry, and Women’s Studies Quarterly. She is professor emeritus at Northeastern Illinois University and lives in Chicago.