Good Kid by Liana Cusmano

Poem title: Good Kid Poet name: Liana Cusmano Poem: The good kid is the kid whose parents never needed to go to parent-teacher night but who always went anyway, the kid who aced the test that everybody else failed and who still mourned that bonus question. The good kid has never broken a rule, told a lie, fallen short or fallen down. When the good kid was born, her father was grateful that from that moment forward, he would always have a purpose. When the good kid was born, her mother was relieved that from that day on, she would never be alone. The good kid is the middle ground on which her immigrant parents battle for ideals she doesn’t understand; faith, finance, fidelity. The good kid is potty trained by age two, can read by age four, the good kid knows how to keep quiet how to do what she’s told how to be nice how hold it until they get home. The good kid knows that she should comfort her mother when her parents fight. The good kid knows that she should not disturb her father when he comes home from work. To keep other people from hurting, the good kid tumbles and says it doesn’t hurt. To keep other people from crying, the good kid never cries. The good kid is taught to come first for everyone except herself. Her family has done so much her family has given everything her family has crossed space and time to give her all the things she never asked for that she was never entitled to. The least she can do is her best and the surest way to know that she has done her best is to make sure that she is the best, on every report card, every scoresheet, every honour roll. The good kid is a machine that runs on well done, that’s amazing, congratulations. To make a mistake, to fail, is to be tossed on the junk heap of Are you mad at me? What did I do wrong? Do you still love me? The good kid is a status symbol in the battered individual’s ascent from second rate immigrant to first class citizen, an accomplishment that her parents and grandparents will flaunt to impress the people they left behind fifty years ago in another world. The good kid does not doubt their love, she does not confuse it with ownership, she will learn that it comes from a place that’s pure and proud and tender. But she will also learn that there is a difference between love that is unconditional and love that is indiscriminate, and that that difference is the fine line between ‘I love you because you are you’ and ‘I love you because you are mine’. When presented with two pairs of eyeglasses, three flavours of ice cream, four Friday night movie options the good kid asks, Which one is the best? The question What do you want? does not compute. The good kid’s family ask her what she will be when she grows up and she gives them the answer she thinks they want to hear. She does not tell them when she is hungry or tired or sad or lonely because she was never taught that that actually mattered. The good kid thought about writing this poem and then decided that it was too whiny and ungrateful. The good kid stumbles and says it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t hurt. The good kid is assigned a writing exercise at school, the prompt is – When do you feel sad? What are you afraid of? The good kid treats the exercise like an optimization test. She writes, I’m only sad when other people are sad. I am not afraid of anything. End of Poem. Credits: Copyright © Liana Cusmano Writer, poet, filmmaker and spoken word artist, Liana Cusmano (Luca/BiCurious George) is the 2018 and 2019 Montreal Slam Champion and the runner up in the 2019 Canadian Individual Poetry Slam Championship. A participant in the 2019 Spoken Word Residency Program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity, Liana has presented their work in English, French and Italian across North America, Europe and Asia. With work that touches on heritage, queerness, relationships and mental health, Liana’s aim is to help others feel both seen and safe. They are currently the president of the Green Party of Canada, and their first novel, Catch and Release, will be published by Guernica Editions.