by Julie Brooks Barbour
Dollar signs, dollars watched,
black and white labels in the pantry—
I knew what I couldn’t have.
At friends’ houses, I coveted their possessions:
magazines addressed to them, porcelain dolls
I couldn’t touch. Out shopping, I watched a friend
add to her collection of small purses.
Because I knew it was wrong,
I hid my first theft under my bed
then started collecting. It went on
until returning them seemed pointless.
One afternoon I slid the stolen
library magazines into a garbage can
in the tool shed, burying them
among food scraps and withered napkins
before my father came home.
When I heard his truck pull into the driveway,
my face turned red. I hurried to the basement door
where I could enter the house unnoticed.
Never caught, I’d do it again,
this time from a department store
where my mother worked. I concealed
a tiny colored pencil in my hand, part of a set,
a trinket I wouldn’t keep. Something struck me
before we left the store to wander the rest of the mall
and I dropped it on the carpet, a tiny sound
my mother heard and spun around to catch me.
I was punished: grounded for two weeks.
I erased my mistake with baptism
and was praised, given gifts, taken out
for steak dinners. Perhaps I knew
the price of what I wanted.
-refers from the word “driveway” in Martin Ott’s story The Interrogator’s Last Question