In this poem by Pittsburgh resident Jim Daniels, a father struggles to heal his son's grief after an incident at school. The poem reminds us...

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In this poem by Pittsburgh resident Jim Daniels, a father struggles to heal his son’s grief after an incident at school. The poem reminds us that when we’re young, little things can hurt in a big way.

— Ted Kooser, U.S. Poet Laureate

Today my son realized someone’s smarter

than him. Not me or his mom —

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he still thinks we know everything —

one of the other kids, Nathan. Making fun

of him at the computer terminal

for screwing up at the math game.

Other kids laughing at him. Second grade.

I’m never gonna be as smart as him,

he says.

I’m never gonna be as smart

as half my students if we’re talking

IQs. He doesn’t want me to explain.

He wants me to acknowledge

that he’s dumb. He’s lying in bed

and taking his glasses off and on,

trying to get them perfectly clean

for the morning. I’m looking around

his dark room for a joke or some

decent words to lay on him. His eyes

are glassy with almost-tears. Second grade.

The world wants to call on him.

I take his hand in mine.

Jim Daniels

Reprinted from “The Paterson Literary Review,” No. 32, by permission of the author. Copyright 2004 by Jim Daniels, whose most recent book is “Show and Tell: New and Selected Poems” University of Wisconsin Press, 2004. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry. “American Life in Poetry” appears Fridays in Northwest Life.