I remember my first lie.
The Colour Table was
a rectangle squatting on four legs
in the middle of the Kindergarten room.
On Mondays, we brought things from home,
pulled them from pockets and lunch boxes,
and arranged them like offerings at a shrine
behind a construction paper sign declaring
On Fridays, having demonstrated this fundamental lesson,
we took home our red barrettes
our yellow dump trucks
our blue Lego bricks.
At the end of GREEN! Week, a doll’s dress remained
the colour of spring leaves,
and the ramparts of Oz
Whose is this? The teacher held the tiny garment
between her fingers like a dirty thing
I already asked the morning class,
so it belongs to one of you.
The afternoon kids looked at one another
I turned my head left and right,
that dress would fit my Lucy doll
I raised my hand.
Once the teacher pressed it into my palms,
I stuffed the lie into my backpack.
Walking home, I felt eyes on me
—parents, children, pets—
I knew they knew.
Cars drove by. Passengers turned to glare at
the Five-Year Old Fibber
the Kindergarten Thief.
—after Sesame Street but before dinner—
I stole my mother’s sewing scissors,
shut my bedroom door, and
cut it into pieces, then hid
the emerald scraps in the darkest corner
of my closet.
(What I learned in Kindergarten:
While lies might be harmless,
shame will erode your soul.)