I will button my shirt wrong.
The whole thing will be
lopsided, and I will walk
to school with one shoulder
higher than the other, like a leaning
tower of book-and-lunch bags.
At Cabrini and Pinehurst
the sidewalk will break into sparkles
like pins and needles—
and I will think of my father’s feet
as he duckwalks to work.
Candystores will be
opening the dark mouths
of their doors; proprietors will be
peering at the taxi-and-baby-carriage
swirl of the street—
and I will think of my father’s face
as he glares at his watch.
I will arrive at my desk always
late; my teacher will purse
her lips and tell me to button
my shirt right—and I will think
of my father’s back as he bends
over his desk like someone
warming himself by a fire.
James Reiss is the author of the poetry collection The Breathers, from Ecco Press. Since then, he has published poems in The New Yorker and Esquire. (1975)