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American Life in Poetry: “Joey, 4th grade, 1992”

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opinion Morris, 56267
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

Laura Dimmit is from Joplin, Missouri, and her family survived the fierce tornado of May, 2011. The entire area was strewn with debris, and here’s a poem about just one little piece that fell from the sky.

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School photo, found after the Joplin tornado

“Joey, 4th grade, 1992”

He’s been on the fridge since it happened,

sneaking glances from underneath the cat

magnet at our dinners, coffee habits, arguments.

We posted him on the database of items found,

hoping that someone would recognize his messy

hair, Batman t-shirt, blue eyes, but no one

answered the post or claimed him.

Somewhere a childhood photo album is not

quite complete, or a grandmother’s mantelpiece;

an uncle’s wallet. One afternoon I got restless,

flipped through my old yearbooks, trying to find him,

looking to see how he might have aged: did he lose

the chubby cheeks? dye his hair? how long

did he have to wear braces? But he’s too young

to have passed me in the halls, the picture just

a stranger, a small reminder of the whirling aftermath

when Joplin was clutching at scraps: everything displaced,

even this poor kid who doesn’t even know he’s lost.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2012 by Laura Dimmit, and reprinted by permission of the poet. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.  

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