The Last Conference

at conferences she swings her legs
 back and forth, swish… kick
 and murmurs her replies,
 her set-to-be bragging portfolio of pride
 melted into a subtle acceptance
 of just good enough
 and with all eight eyes on her
 she hears the same words
 she’s heard for six years:
 Talk more.
 (when all the world is a whirlwind of noise
 and she has the quiet demeanor of one who always listens,  always knows)

 and the rims of her eyes redden
 after hearing the judgey truth too many times, and before a word escapes
 her last-year-in-elementary lips,
 they’re telling her not to cry.
 they beg us then for questions, concerns,
 wanting to fill in the ten minute gap that hangs like a carcass between us,
 but my words are swallowed too,
 behind my own quiet tears,
 my own red-rimmed eyes,
 and all i can hear is Scout’s voice
 proclaiming that school is a lesson in Group Dynamics,
 and my girl, my baby, doesn’t fit into that mold.
 instead we fill the hallway with sing-song voices
 to banter with her older sister,
 one year ahead and one million years mouthier,
 and my tears melt and her eyes soften and we move on.
 we step into the cold autumn night and she clings to each of our hands, unwilling to pull away,
 her last-year-of-elementary heart still as soft as six years back,
 still my little girl trying to find her place in this whirlwind world.

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