Sixth Grade Autobiography

by Bryce Berkowitz

after Donika Ross Kelly

We live in Carbondale, Illinois.
We have a wood stove, a TV antenna, and a deer head hanging on the wall.
Mom decorates it with Christmas lights, a Santa hat, and calls it Rudolph.
My favorite things are secrets, sugar-strawberries,
and pretending chopped logs are bazookas. I pick green beans in the garden
and play basketball with Dad at sunset.
He runs marathons and at the finish line we wrap him with aluminum foil.
He says he feels like Superman, and sometimes leftovers.
He hugs me and I feel old in his arms. I’m afraid of the dark,
being separated on vacation during a storm, and liars.
Hurricane Erin splits our Gulf Shores’ rental with a billboard;
we lay on cots in a gymnasium turned red-cross shelter.
Burger King serves free breakfast sandwiches to displaced families.
Sleeping alone is nearly impossible.
Our dog, Digit, banana-white and curly-haired, tugs on the blankets
at midnight. I believe in ghosts.
I have three half-sisters and one half-brother
and the most RBI’s in little league.
Girls say I look like Yeah Yeah from The Sandlot.
We have a crab apple tree. A rose bush. And three maple trees.
I run through falling helicopter seeds and cumulus clouds are my favorite.
I lie in the grass, and decide what animal I’d be: a duck.
July fourth sleepovers. All of us drunk
on stolen cigarettes, chlorine-kisses, and being out in the yard after 10 p.m.
Marco Polo and Coors Light cans. Buffalo Springfield and Warren G.
Sometimes Mom dancing with the Dad.
Sometimes me dancing with the dog. Even though he bites,
I’m sure that he loves me. Whenever we pause,
he cocks his head, and then howls with his whole body.


Bryce Berkowitz’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Best New Poets 2017, The Sewanee Review, Ninth Letter, Third Coast, Passages North, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Pinch, Hobart, Sugar House Review, Barrow Street, Salt Hill, The Laurel Review, Permafrost, and other publications.


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