The Art of Saying No

The Art of Saying No

By Kim Drew Wright


-after Naomi Shihab Nye’s “The Art of Disappearing”

When they say Don’t you want to join the PTA?
          say no.

When they ask you to aide kindergartners
at the start of school,
remember last year before buckling.
          Ten minutes guiding cute faces off buses.
          Three hours shoveling packets—stuffed. Paper
          cuts. Numb ears. Manila smile stuck to seven
          hundred bland envelopes.
Then answer.

If they say You’re a stay-at-home mom
          with time.
Do not reply fine.

Start clocking your hours spent
          cutting patterns for gingerbread houses,
          segregating beads by color, shape—piling
          minutes like papers instructing parents how
          to file for discount lunches in an upper-class

Tell them you would if you could, but time is
a commodity just as important to you as that kid’s father
who’s a brain surgeon at VCU. You bet he doesn’t give
brain surgeries away for free—at least not repetitively.

When they chase you down in the halls, squat down
and become a water fountain. Let them spout on and on.
Accessorize your outfit with yellow caution tape.

Hang a hand-written note around your neck that states
Shut Down.

Thank them for the invite to the volunteer tea,
          then decline.

Kim Drew Wright volunteers at her three children’s schools in Richmond, Virginia. Her debut collection of stories and poems, The Strangeness of Men, won Finalist in the USA Best Book Awards. Find out more at KIMDREWWRIGHT.COM.