The Self on Reflection

Down the street from Dad's office, that school stood,
an implacable monolith. Every time we drove by in the Jaguar,
he'd point it out, saying, "If you don't work hard, this where you'll end up.
A nobody.

My siblings were a parent's dream.
He made captain of the team, while I failed to make the cut.
She became the salutatorian of the class; I couldn't
break into the top ten. Beloved by teachers, esteemed by students,
while I--my own best friend refused to be publicly seen with me.

Who was I but the imitation gown sold at the flea market?
I existed, but only just. Grades, friends, respect, my parents' love
they already had taken, leaving me with nothing but myself
I began to draw. Smiling cartoon girls and boys, still-lifes of the lake. Or
of fruit, shiny in their fresh plasticity, and the human form, both
plump and slender, rounded and jagged in shape.
I'd illustrate pictures and story-tell in lieu of friends.

Off I went to a genuine school, to become an artist.
I thought I had escaped, but his warning became foreshadowing.
My homework showed up, tampered and shredded.
My pot broken, my clothes stolen--
nothing had changed. A girl, bored, wanted to have some fun
with stories too, and told everyone I was dangerous,
possibly homicidal. When it was over, I was left with
nothing.

And where do you think dear Father wanted me to
go, where he could keep an eye on me, after he
no longer believed I could be someone?
Forced to see that baleful monolith, day after day.
And here I am. Everything that was me
was destroyed in two minutes. But if I'm nobody
then nothing was lost.