A Great Poem by Margaret Kaufman

“Photo, Brown Troup, St. Louis 1949”
by Margaret Kaufmann

I’m going to put Karen Prasse right here
in front of you on this page
so that you won’t mistake her for something else,
a girl who knew that the sky (blue crayon)
was above the earth (green crayon)
and did not, as you had drawn it, come right down
to the green on which your three bears stood.
You can tell from her outfit that she is a Brownie.
You can tell from her socks that she knows how
to line things up, from her mouth that she may
grow up mean or simply competent. Do not mistake
her for an art critic:  when she told you
the first day of first grade that your drawing
was “wrong,” you stood your ground and told her
to look out the window. Miss Voss told your mom
you were going to be a good example of something,
although you cannot tell from the way your socks sag,
nor from your posture, far from Brownie-crisp.
This is not about you for a change, but about
mis-perception, of which Karen was an early example.
Who knows? She may have meant to be helpful,
though that is not always a virtue,
and gets in the way of some art.

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