My sister-in-law pays
my nephew a quarter to behave.
Wish that was all it took for me.
Like any grown-up, I know
enough to stay in line, turn in
taxes when they’re due, only go
five over on the highway.
It’s not hard to keep a rule
when someone’s watching, and God
doesn’t count for most people.
It’s when you’re alone that
the quarter starts to crumble,
becomes just another piece of metal
next to the trouble inside us,
the caustic rebel cry.
Renee Emerson is the author of Keeping Me Still (Winter Goose Publishing 2014) and Threshing Floor (Jacar Press 2016). Her poetry has been published in 32 Poems, Christianity and Literature, Indiana Review, Literary Mama, Southern Humanities Review, storySouth, and elsewhere. Renee lives in Arkansas with her husband and four daughters.