Reason Why [Poem]

By Elie D.

Stuffy rooms with billowing heat and no

air conditioning all day all summer so someone else can

enjoy himself, repeating over and over again that

you actually do have the authority here and that no,

there is no difference between being a CIT and a counselor.

Constant smiles that tug at tired faces and make jaws

ache with the struggle of keeping up appearances while

encouragements flow; that looks so nice, blue was a good choice,

wow I’m impressed, your drawing skills are amazing, and yes of course

I’m being honest. Singing along to the cheesy songs that

are always bouncing around in your skull in a dull ache

that never ends, the pound pound pound of dreary repetitiveness,

always enthusiastic with the painted on smile and the boppy

dance moves even when you don’t know the song.

Sweat coursing in rivers down your back under the baggy

brightly colored men’s-cut T shirts and shorts that reach

at least your knees always with a belt while your finger aches from

spraying a cooling mist over the crowds like you’re squirting

the annoying cat who won’t jump off the couch but never getting

the relief the bottle offers because it’s not about you.

Sun like fire across your back as your feet cramp in

impractical shoes that slap across concrete also sweating

in the death from above while you play capture the flag

even though you aren’t athletic and the prospect of running

in front of other people terrifies you, or braiding hair and drawing chalk flowers

when you aren’t actually here for the art, you’re here for the money

but you put up with it anyways pretending to know

what you’re doing. It’s calming voices and gentle smiles

and soft pats on the back when they cry over using blue

instead of red and their shoe untying and some dirt on their shorts

so trivial compared with your life how could it possibly matter

so much, but it does so you smile and tell them it will

all be ok in the end.

But really it’s smiling for hours a day and days a week and

weeks all summer in true happiness and not caring the heat is

eating away you, peeling your skin from your burnt body.

Eyes crinkle with grins of contentment and joy,

sun chapped lips open wide with the laugh of innocence,

smiles full of crooked teeth that don’t know yet

what the world is like. Pink flushed cheeks

from a lack of water and hair that just won’t stay in braids

instead pasting itself to the backs of sweaty necks

running around at waist height with shrill giggles

echoing down the stairwell as friends find each other after

studio to wash the glue and paint off hands but not shirts.

Rounded eyes of youth looking up with wonder at the older girl

who treats them like an equal and smiles at their jokes

and plays with them at recess and tells them their art looks amazing

with sincerity, seeing a role model and a new friend and someone

who might even be perfect because perfection is still a possibility

at that age. And you are smart because you know the runnings

of camp and where things are located and even how to do most

of the projects and it’s a swelling feeling in the chest because

for once you are worth something even if it’s only to little kids

who don’t know yet how life really plays out and so you carry yourself

a little straighter and smile a little brighter and prove you really

are worth something. Messy scrawls in smudged pencil with greasy

fingerprints and a drawing of something you can’t quite tell

on a cheap white card thrust into your hand by the little boy

with chubby cheeks and angel’s curls trying to tell you in

the only way he knows how that he is having the time of his life

and it’s thanks to you. You have done your job and it’s rewarding

with their smiles on fire as you walk by and they want you

to come sit with them because in this world that works only to bring

you down you have found an oasis that will pick you back up

and it’s finally something you are willing to work for.