So, for the longest time,
I’ve always thought of Mark
As my brother in our school family.
Or one of my brothers, at least.

But today I had a realization,
While we were cleaning out his room
From 33 years of teaching.

Mark is my favorite cousin.

You know,
The one you always wanted to sit by
When you went to Grandma’s for the weekend.
The one who’d tell great stories
And make you laugh
Even when you were down.

The one who’d teach you cool things
Like how to ride your bike no-handed,
And how to play poker,
And how to build bottle rockets.
The one you’d get in “trouble” with,
Not the bad kind of trouble,
But the kind when your parents would say
“You kids!” and send you outside to play.

So you’d stroll down to the neighborhood park
And that favorite cousin
Would teach you how to blow smoke rings
With pocketed Lucky Strikes from
Grandpa’s sock drawer,
Stollen while no one was looking.
Like he’d done it all his life.

And that favorite cousin whom you always
Seek out at family reunions
And you laugh so hard telling stories
That you cry and the next day
Your stomach hurts.

Like today while Mark and I
Were cleaning out his room
And I found several items I’d been
Looking for for years…
My favorite fraction manipulatives
That I’d asked him about probably
A dozen times and he always said,
“I haven’t seen them”
And now we know it’s because they were in
The back of a cupboard behind other stuff
All that time …
And the big index cards that I love
That aren’t in the work room any more
So you have to buy them on your own
And there were packages and packages
Of them in his drawer all this time!

And the words “You’re killing me, Mark!”
Actually came out of my mouth,
As I rescued the items and returned
Them to my room.
With a hearty laugh and a
Playful shove.

But what I really meant was
I’m going to really miss you, man.

When you come back to sub next year
It’ll be like a family reunion …
And we’re sitting at the
Kids’ table, you and I!
That’s where the
Fun happens.

Jennifer Gurney lives in Colorado where she teaches, paints, writes and hikes. She is a newly published poet, at age 59, with over 100 poems in print thus far. Jennifer has also published commentary about poetry. During the pandemic she joined the online poetry community of The Daily Haiku.