The memories come back to him now

of teacher saying you are so special,


all of you, each one of you as unique


as a snowflake and guess what, what


the children holler back from their seats,


you are special boys and girls, so special


and it’s only a matter of time before


the world recognizes how special you are. 


At home Johnny hears the same message


on the television, you are so special


Johnny boy, you are one in a trillion,


special as a snowflake, no one is like you,


no one, Johnny boy, no one! In no time


the rest of the world will see you clearly.


What’s wonderful about children is how


they believe whatever they are told, any


old crazy thing can become their reality


and thus the message dwells in his heart


and mind for decades, sprouting as a daisy


until one day John the man is sweeping floors


of a diner when he hears from the corner booth


a boy with his mother, and she says one day


the world will recognize just how special


you are, Billy boy, they will see what I see.


Rage rises up in John’s guts, uncontrollable


hatred for all who poured jugs of sugary lies


down his throat year after year with a smile—


mother, teachers, the furry character on TV—


all who knew he was meant to be a janitor


or an oil rigger or a gas station clerk,


or a man who sweeps up hair and macaroni,


they knew, all along, they knew


and lied to his face to make themselves


feel better in that moment, look at the joy


I bring to Johnny boy’s face each time I say


the word ‘special’ and see the word transform


into a smile, a smile that goes from face to face


until we are all smiling and happy as can be


for a little while.


John the man breaks the broom over his knee


and the diners run for the exits, Billy boy


is rattled no doubt but mother holds him close


while John the man roars like a lion and leaps


through the front window, power unleashed.


If they catch him he will be sedated and jailed


and this cannot happen tonight John, O John


we have talked about this a million times


with ourselves while lying in bed at night


listening to the neighbors hurl shoes at the wall


and scream how much they hate one another,


we’ve had this discussion while being awoken


by sirens in the middle of the night, John


we said when the time came we would not fear,


you can either join the black-masked mob


and burn down the world or go crazy or leave


and thus he rushes to the bridge and climbs


a pillar to look down at the rushing water






there on the bridge is another man with fire


in his eyes who says why have you climbed up


there tonight, John, and what do you seek?


John says I am not special, it was a lie,


all of them lied to make children smile


but no one is smiling in the real world.


The man with fire in his eyes says of course


you are not special and of course they lied,


what will those who do not know teach


those who do not know?


John, my brother, what they did not tell you


is that you are worthy, worthy of the image,


worthy because of the blood that is His blood


running through your heart and your veins,


worthy because of the mind that reflects His


mind, worthy because in you is the forge


that called forth the stars above our heads.


John my brother, you are not special but you


are worthy.