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Dennis Etzel, Jr.

That Mistake


An error is a wandering from truth, primarily in impression, judgment, or calculation and, by extension of the idea, in conduct; it may be a state. A mistake is a false judgment or choice; it does not, as error sometimes does, imply moral obliquity, the defect being placed wholly in the wisdom of the actor, and in its treatment of this defect the word is altogether gentle. [Century Dictionary, 1897]

I look back     at vacation

time in the Rockies    that small town 

candy store     Asmund fought

himself     his brain and body

to go inside     with me his Daddy

so when the cashier      corrected

tried to teach him     a lesson

by saying     look at me

in the eyes     when I am talking

I was embarrassed     for him

the lesson    I should have taught her

his huge step     to come in

to make a purchase      as a child

with his money      clutched in hand

maneuvering through      this clutter

of life     as he lives a spectrum    

of silences      it was my silence 

she was in error     it was my mistake

it was my lesson     to not make      

that mistake      as long as I can speak    

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Dennis Etzel Jr. lives in Topeka, Kansas, where he teaches English at Washburn University. His work has appeared in Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, Tarpaulin Sky, DIAGRAM and others. His book My Secret Wars of 1984 was a Kansas City Star Best Poetry Book of 2015.

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