The John Robert Doyle, Jr., Prize

Debra Daniel

How We Make It Through

Notice the daffodils in the neighbor’s yard.

Comment on how they match his front door.

Take the dogs on a walk, stopping at every corner,

and when they sit without being told,

reward them the special bacon-flavored treats.

Watch old episodes of The Andy Griffith Show,

the black and white ones with Barney Fife.

During the hearings, the debates, the primaries,

when the sarcasm and lies and name-calling

climb to a peak, when people bring up her emails

again, even after four years, and when breaking news

reports another mass shooting and another glacier

melts into an ocean filled with plastic-choked fish,

volunteer to be a docent at the museum where you’ll

tour children through a gallery of impressionistic

paintings. Point out seasides and a host of sailboats

and romantic picnics and rainy Paris afternoons.

Talk about water lilies and sunflowers and quote

a sonnet you memorized when you were seventeen.

Write a letter to an old teacher, not to your favorite,

but to the no-nonsense one who made you work for an A.

Write it even if you know she passed away years ago.

Fill it with details about what you learned. Write it

in cursive on expensive stationery, and even if

you don’t mail it, stick a special forever stamp

in the corner. Enclose an old yearbook photo

so she can recognize your seventeen year old self.

Plant some daffodils of your own so that next spring

someone walking by with a dog will take a moment

to notice that something yellow and young is growing.

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