On the Playground

On the Playground

I saw it first

from a distance.

It was bright red


and looked as if

strawberry jam

had landed on the boy’s cheek

instead of his mouth

in an attempt to lick the spoon.


As he played

with the children

just like him

but without a mark

of such misfortune

I watched

and hoped my young son

would not point to it

or make fun of the boy

who wore it so bravely

as if he were

just like the other boys

with soft and tender cheeks

who would go home

to their mirrors

and scrub their faces clean

without the shock

of what couldn’t be

washed away.


My heart fell

like a fumbled spoon

of strawberry jam

when my son came toward me

tethered to this boy

with one hand

pointing to his cheek

with the other.


All of a sudden

anxiety dissolved

like the large

temporary tattoo

of an apple

half washed away.



DeMaris Gaunt


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