when I was _____ I remember playing
cards, holding my hand tight so I couldn’t
see what I was holding. My mother had
been taught to play by her mother but
she never taught me. I could only hold
my own in UNO or Snap. I wanted
to grow up to drink amber liquids
from thick glass and lay jacks down
on a wooden table after night had
aced day. In our house my
parents shuffled the deck, deciding
who was dealing with silence
who the joker, who had a heart
who was hiding things up their sleeve.
My father was a gambler of the lowest order.
He liked to steal things from his family
in case they needed something he
couldn’t give. I was ______ when I
broke into the neighbour’s house
helping the older kids tip the fridge
over after making a milkshake
no one could drink. The cops called it
a spree as three homes were entered,
all Dad said was did you cover your tracks?
and buy next door some more milk. I was
grounded by Mum as she found
a stash of Star War swap cards I’d taken
from my best friend’s brother’s room,
even though I planned to return them
once I grew up. Being alone in my
room was better than being together
in the living room, full house, the TV
turned up so no one had to put down.



where I grew up had one father
where I grew up had one mother
they had one fight and one was right
where I grew up I had one street
where I grew up there was one taxi
one secret under a single bed
where I grew up we had one saying
never talk to strangers or yourself
where I grew up people looked at you
with one eye open, one eye closed
where I grew up there was one soccer team
nearby was one nuclear reactor
beyond the one cemetery with one grave
where I grew up we had one train
of thought and one station
where we grew up there was one god
one air one breath one lung
one dog who chased its tail
where I grew up I had one neighbour
with one pool, one fool but no hill
when I grew up there was one way
out and one way in
where I grew up there was one house
no one talked about at dinner
where I grew up one of my friends
became a politician’s speech writer
one became a cop’s son
one became a rumour, one became the earth
no one knew how to say. don’t look
at the one affair across the way
where I grew up there was one suspicious fire
each year, there was one common fear
there was one Chinese takeaway
in the adjoining suburb
and one white Christmas tree
two doors up. one casual racist. one alcoholic.
one broken phone box in the park, one rule after dark
one pair of pale legs chased by one blade
in the hand of one boy. There was joy
it was one with money and mowing
one line to leave and one line to stay



David Stavanger was the lead facilitating poet at Green Square School in 2019. These poems were written in response to Green Square School students' found text card poem UNO/DOS/TRES (NAAH).