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In this poem by Pittsburgh resident Jim Daniels, a father struggles to heal his son’s grief after an incident at school. The poem reminds us that when we’re young little things can hurt in a big way.


Today my son realized someone’s smarter than him. Not me or his mom — he still thinks we know everything — one of the other kids, Nathan. Making fun of him at the computer terminal for screwing up at the math game.

Other kids laughing at him. Second grade. I’m never gonna be as smart as him, he says.

I’m never gonna be as smart as half my students if we’re talking IQs. He doesn’t want me to explain.

He wants me to acknowledge that he’s dumb. He’s lying in bed and taking his glasses off and on, trying to get them perfectly clean for the morning. I’m looking around his dark room for a joke or some decent words to lay on him. His eyes are glassy with almost-tears. Second grade.

The world wants to call on him. I take his hand in mine.


Reprinted from The Paterson Literary Review, No. 32, by permission of the author. Copyright 2004 by Jim Daniels. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

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