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I used to think people were 

either Goofus or Gallant.

Goofus tracks in mud

From playing outside. 

Gallant takes off his shoes

By the door. 

Easy to tell which is which

As a child reading Highlights.

Harder as a grown-up. 


The tall, muscular governor 

With the toothy grin 

Is applauded as a Gallant.

But his wife discovers

He’s had a child

With their housekeeper

And divorces him

As a Goofus.


The administrative assistant

Ran the office so reliably

Her co-workers voted her 

‘Best Colleague’: Gallant.

But she is serving time

For embezzlement:  Goofus.


The employee who shows up late

Several winter mornings: Goofus.

He stops to push motorists 

Stuck on the icy incline

Of his street:  Gallant. 


The JCPenney janitor

Who used safety pins

To hold his coat together: Goofus.

But left six million to 

His town’s library and hospital

When he died: Gallant.


And I am a grown-up now.

The labels fall away,

Human beings seen

More clearly now

Their complicated 

Histories, their terrible

And brilliant choices.

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