Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Breaking Free

I am pledging allegiance to the flag
in the basement classroom when
my crewcut friend appears at the door
with a message. He whispers to the teacher

who motions to me and I learn that
my dog has followed me to school.
What an occasion, that above all the other
scents in the world, all the other

high-topped sneakers, he has found me out
I learn that he has already made it through
the first grade, where he has
muddied a teacher’s dress with his dark paws.

I imagine his journey as he runs down
the long corridors that smell of chalk dust
and institutional cleanser, cantering
past the principal’s office, the holy of holies,

where the records are kept. I see him sniffing
at the blunt toed shoes of the army
of teachers who find him.
He wags his tail when he sees me, but I am

overcome with my notoriety. Why did you
follow me, why single me out? I get the dog
and put him out the front entrance.
Go home, I tell him, go on home, ignoring

his optimistic eyes, shutting
the great wooden doors
on that part of me that is
without a collar and wild.

Credit


Copyright © Stuart Kestenbaum. From House of Thanksgiving (Deerbrook Editions, 2003). Used with permission of the author. 

Author


Stuart Kestenbaum

Stuart Kestenbaum is the author of five collections of poems, most recently How to Start Over (Deerbrook Editions, 2019). He was appointed Maine’s poet laureate in 2016. 

Date Published: 2021-01-26

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/breaking-free