Thursday, October 15, 2009


His hand caught
in the firm grip
of his mother
on the platform


regarding me
as children do
in a dimly innocent
wholly impolite way

knowing nothing of
who I was
or where I’d been
or what I’d done
that day


pretended to read
my ticket,
looked around
here and there
as if I had something
or someone
to look for,
until my eyes finally
and locked
on his


His mother,
seized by a sudden need
for something
secreted away
in her outlandishly large
loosed his hand
and dug
and dug

so with a half-turn
and one
he slowly counted down

four broad buttons
on my overcoat,
like four bright
in an elevator

without a word,
his mother
was busy and


he knew
(rich man,)
I knew

(poor man,)

what he was




Julie said...

Hi, Joaquin! You blew me out of my seat yet again! I'm having so much fun reading this one over and over. Including the game in the end is excellent, but leaving out the last word is perfect. I love the expertly placed details that mean so much more than the surface read (like sticky cherubic finger). That one cracked me up.

But what is so completely awesome is the setup in the beginning. The kid staring, as kids do, and then this stanza:

knowing nothing of
who I was
or where I’d been
or what I’d done
that day

Oh, yeah! As always, I love the story behind the story that you create so well. Wonderful poem:)

Karen said...

I've come to expect rhythm and rhyme when I come here, but I really like the style of this, surprising as it is to me.

The details like the mother's preoccupation that allows the child's "half-turn" and the use of that "sticky/cherubic/finger" to count buttons "like four bright/buttons/in an elevator" are well chosen and really capture the audacity of the child, who in his "dimly innocent/ wholly impolite way" disconcerts the speaker so. What I really like is that both the child and the speaker see through one another. Once they lock eyes, it's as if all pretense is gone. The ending is excellently crafted - leaving out that last word is a stroke of genius in its restraint.

For some reason, this reminds me of Dickens, probably because he creates so many child-thiefs who have more wisdom than the adults in their lives.

I'm afraid I could go on and on here, but I want to read it again. I really, really appreciate your gift, and I'm so glad you share it with us every Thursday.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

I love this so much. Your descriptions and details of mannerisms of the child are rich. Oh, that little cherubic finger and his need for entertainment - yeah, your buttons will do. I could imagine you there - being just as entertained. What an extraordinary snippet of a wonderful moment between child and adult - stangers, and yet...

And I agree with Julie about the story behind the story. You give us some insight about a little aspect - then we delve just beneath the surface to feel another whole dimension welling up! Love how you leave out the word "thief" and circle around to use it for the title. Clever. Much enjoyed as always!

Rick said...

A wonderfully layered work. I'm glad I stopped by.

RachelW said...

This one is so outside of your usual flow and order. It feels more familiar to me somehow, though I like your other work just as much.

Nevine said...

The most powerful part of this poem, for me, was the way you set it up... can I use the word geographically? Every word is arranged perfectly, in its proper spot. The italics: waiting, staring, watching, pressing. And this:

regarding me
as children do
in a dimly innocent
wholly impolite way

A child's innocence that is tinged with audacity!

And this:

he knew
(rich man,)
I knew

(poor man,)

The sound of that!

You write about the child in the third person, but I am inside his world, and yours. A gem!


Jannie Funster said...

You are just so wildly talented and I love reading your stuff.

Stunning one, this.

My daughter has done things like that with the buttons, mostly feeling ladies' necklaces and earrings.

joaquin carvel said...

julie - glad it blew you out of your seat - it's always nice to be able to return a favor! your encouragement is unbelievable - thank you.

karen - surprised me a little too - less comfortable for me, which is probably a good thing - but glad you liked it. anything that reminds one of dickens can't be all bad! thank you - and again, glad to return the favor.

k - thank you - i think it was the "strangers, and yet" aspect that pulled me through this one. sometimes the stories behind the stories are the most fun, aren't they?

rick - me too. thank you!

rachel - yes, felt like i crept out a little here - but "familiar" is amazing. thank you.

nevine - sure you can! thank you - it's wonderful to hear, as this one in particular was hard to judge that way.

jannie - thank you - i love that you love reading this stuff. your daughter (going by the pics alone) is one sharp little firecracker, and in that (i'm sure) she does her mamma proud!

Anonymous said...

your rhymes are master piece of story telling.