Cheryl A. Rice


Broken at Show-n-Tell, I can’t
remember now what was so special
about the mug my sister
brought to school. Did it say,
“Dad,” red on white dime store
service so popular as
a child’s gift? Was it part
of a set, tho we had no
sets in our house, three
children, two parents, a
dog from time to time.
We were the only things that
matched, bound by creation,
chemical likeness,
squint at humanity,
sneer at fortune’s rusty wheel.

She was crying, that much I
remember, and I was
allowed to stand with
her on line as we waited
for our bus home. Normally
segregated by grade and teacher,
her distress, then as now, was
unbearable for the Powers to
manage without familial
input. I was powerless too, to
stop her tears, formulated by
anger, by fear. Our father,
now old and broken, was then
a young hothead whose temper
could lift the roof. We’d
all felt his spankings,
too firm for a child, what one
might expect of an aspiring
Golden Gloves champ.

Nothing was precious in our house
that day except that mug.
Nothing more golden
than the goldenrods blooming
in the schoolyard that autumn
when I crossed the arbitrary
line, glared at any who dared
to laugh at her tears. I
could not defend her at home,
but here on the bus platform,
I was her heroine.


Cheryl A. Rice is the author of Love’s Compass, My Minnesota Boyhood, and Moses Parts the Tulips. Rice is also the host and founder of the now-defunct Sylvia Plath Bake-Off. Her poems have appeared in The Baltimore Review, Chronogram, Home Planet News, and The Temple. Rice’s RANDOM WRITING workshops have gathered throughout the Hudson Valley, where she has made her home for the last forty-odd years. She started out as an infant on Long Island in the early 1960s, a fine time to do so.”