Civilization, Also Known as Morning Meeting / by Jefna M. Cohen

What does it matter if a child remembers the name of a parallelogram

If he cannot lend a hand to his neighbor,

and reach out when she has fallen on the black top

knee bloodied,

snot running free,

braids wild,

to offer her a Band-Aid,

or open the door on the way to the school nurse,

who happens to have the ice?


What does it mean if a child can decode the words VUP and MIN

If she cannot look her friend in the eye and say

I didn’t mean to hurt you,

are you ok?


And not always sorry,




I see you.

I see what I did to you,

and it was not right

but I want to make it so.


Can she shake a new hand and meet eyes

and say,

Nice to meet you,

What is your name?


Does he notice there is a food wrapper on the ground in the park,

that was not his in the first place?

Yet he stoops to pick it up,


like breathing,

zooming to put it in the trash, hummingbird-like,

before bounding off to play.

In less than a heartbeat

he is not at all worse for it, no.

Slightly better,

in fact.





I see you,

I notice.

I’m sorry.

I’m listening.


Originally published June, 2016