What We Knew In 1947
We knew about George Washington,
the axe, the tree: to never tell a lie.
In second grade we didn’t know much, but
we knew Bobby’s dad never got to third grade;
we knew to stay away from Hank Parker
who had lice; we knew men in cars would honk
and offer rides, but to just keep walking; we knew
to fend for ourselves after school;
we knew kids from the Hebrew Home
had been left there by their parents; we knew
the neighbor man who touched girls
and asked Does that feel good? We knew
to run past the domed insane asylum;
we knew Jamie had fits and fell on the floor—
we knew not to look, but we did; we knew
Joey stole candy from Mr. Wolff’s store;
we knew Nick Bell got a beating most nights; and
we knew not to tell grownups what we knew.
from Biting the Apple (Penciiled In, 2012)
Jeanie is the San Luis Obispo County poet laureate and author of Biting the Apple and Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith. Her poems have been published on Writers’ Almanac and American Life in Poetry.