Jolly Ranchers

October 11, 2019

They sulk and swear when I say, “Sorry, no Jollies,” tune out when I lecture about sugar, acid, and tooth decay- they’ve known sweetness and want more....

 

Gratification only from words, not from food!
          -A ground rule of treatment taught by a psychoanalyst supervisor.

But my colleague gives each child three,

and I’m covering his residential school kids

who demand rewards stored in his drawer.

They sulk and swear when I say, “Sorry,

no Jollies,” tune out when I lecture

about sugar, acid, and tooth decay-

they’ve known sweetness and want more.

My inner voice curses my colleague

for breaking the ground rule until

I remember being ten, weekly allergy shots,

three per arm, needles my pediatrician

sharpened on his stone. Sleeve rolled,

I’d offer a triceps and watch him jab,

detached from pain when steel failed

to penetrate, once, twice, the way

he let out his breath when the shaft

sunk deep, my pride for never crying.

He’d swab the blood and bandage

my arm, smiling as he opened

the lollipop drawer and I’d grab

my colors, resolved to grow up

and become a doctor like him.

Now I blink and see the patient

boy in my office, eyes steady,

fearless about what he deserves,

as certain as my supervisor’s belief

in theories I was fed. I reflect

for an instant, sigh like my pediatrician,

shoulders relaxing while I rummage the desk.

I offer him three.