CATEGORY ONE WEAPON
Five-year-old Kyle’s knife reaches
two inches beyond his outstretched hands.
Kyle covered in tears, admits he found it digging
behind a garbage bag and was excited to share
at Show and Tell. His three-foot body
shakes, his sneakered feet dangle
from the chair one shoelace untied. I read him
the Chancellor’s Regs—Principal Suspension
for five days. He wipes his eyes with his left
hand, not sure what that means. I must
ask his teacher to prepare homework.
I must suspend him. Those are the rules.
A trial will take place at the Bronx Detention
Center. You broke the rules. Kyle nods his head.
It’s a Category One Weapon.
He opens his round eyes, wet
with tears. Examples: daggers, dirks, stilettos,
utility knife. Each word cuts my resolve.
He calls for mommy. I take pictures
of the blade. He wails. I wish I could tell him
it will be okay. It will not. On his permanent
record, he will be marked—behavior problem
through middle school. Whispers, warnings,
stares will follow him. What does all this mean
to a kindergarten child? No one hurt,
no one threatened. I want to sit beside him,
say Kyle, I will not suspend you. But I do.
This is the end of the world.
I keep this to myself, instead
I think of my fourth grade
classroom, how Tony and I
crunched our bodies
under our desks,
my chest flat against my thighs
as the teacher told us
it was a drill
for when the bombs come.
I didn’t know what bombs were
but I knew it was bad.
Outside it snowed,
the glass shaking in the wind,
I grabbed Tony’s hand,
it felt cold,
he was shaking,
I rubbed his palms in mine
the blue of his nails
turning pink as he
slapped my hand away.
Told me, not to get my hopes up—
We’re all going to die.
Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City of Puerto Rican heritage. She has had poems published in Mason Street, Constellations, Red Eft Review, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Poetic Medicine-New Voices, and elsewhere. She has a BA/MS from Hunter College, MS from College of New Rochelle. She was an elementary school teacher and principal in the South Bronx. Roxanne resides in Teaneck, NJ, USA with her husband.