I’ve known the story since second grade,
that terrible year. The teacher checking
our fingernails and handkerchiefs,
teaching nothing but tedium. Gray
and marcelled, as chained as I
to that small-town school.
The stench of hot-lunch goulash.
White bread spread thick with margarine.
The shallow patch of backlot gravel
where we tried to play.
Reading was my happiness.
Sometimes I was allowed
to sit on the windowsill with a book.
And where would I have found
such a thing in that barren place?
I can still see the drawing clearly—
the line of the girl’s dress,
the dragon’s orange flame.
And the prince—not St. George, I think—
but it was the same tale—
the monster demanding sacrifice,
the unexpected release.