The afternoon had a flu-like quality, gray and threatening to burst into tears at any moment, but I held it together like a grown-up, taught my classes, smiled at the children. I was in love with one little boy who couldn't write, not one idea in his head despite my encouraging crouch near his desk so long my knees were stiff and rising I almost passed out.
The sky drained of color but plenty of gray light. The teachers nodded sympathetically and said That flu is horrible go home, get some rest.
On the sidewalk thronged the children like little commuters, with their plastic slickers and empty lunch boxes, waiting for their mothers to come pick them up in big shiny minivans. I tottered into poisonous air, head aching with flu, ears ringing with the fever of five hours teaching, saying 'Good! Good! That's great, that's wonderful,' in a high sincere voice.
The children are so smart, I can't take it sometimes.
The way some of them will turn and look straight through me
Then I noticed the girl on the sidewalk, face the color of skimmed milk, ginger hair limp and straight, cut hopelessly to the chin. A small sad storybook of a second-grader, trying to evade her oppressor who in this case was wearing a puffy pink ski jacket and tormenting grin. The bigger girl walked backward blocking the small one from wherever it was she wanted to go. The little victim tried to get around her,
couldn't; tried, couldn't, dodged,
head down, resigned,
the only object now being not to let anyone see me cry. It was myself of course. I stood rooted next to my foggy car, keys in hand, smelling the wet asphalt. Oh that tragically trembling chin! How did I get to be middle-aged, delirious from teaching these children for years, coaxing them to flower into the brutally onrushing future, into the mystery of their fates where poetry may or may not help them?
Then I remembered
and stepped forward.
Took her hand,
cool and fresh as milk,
trusting, in my own fevered paw,
and tall now, sidestepped the taunting girl.
But I wanted to talk to her!
the bully persisted, grinning, still grinning--
the awful, relentless, pasted-on grin--
As if I hadn't been on that side of it too.
As if I didn't know.
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Comments about this poem (Sidewalk Story by Alison Luterman )
Still I Rise
The Road Not Taken
If You Forget Me
Edgar Allan Poe
I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
A Dream Within A Dream
Edgar Allan Poe
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(22 March 1941 -)
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Dreams, Langston Hughes
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Phenomenal Woman, Maya Angelou
- If You Forget Me, Pablo Neruda
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- If, Rudyard Kipling
- As I Grew Older, Langston Hughes
- Fire and Ice, Robert Frost
- Daffodils, William Wordsworth