And suddenly the thousand children
who have never cared for a word from me, much less
a name, clamber over each other forward,
this chaotic army of little hands and feet,
innumerable fingers. Uncontrollable.
Teacher has broken down. Teacher has
Mommy/Sensei/Big Sister is down.
And I wonder,
in their endless gazes and clearest of eyes,
whether those are looks of concern or curiosity.
But it's not that they didn't care;
I am what I have always been to them: what I've shown,
and they've accepted that with the utmost faith.
Sensei isn't supposed to break.
Sensei wasn't a title, a word.
It is my name, identity, purpose.
Thirty-four, thirty-five, thirty-six,
the blind man with sweeps of his cane,
counting steps to the corner store,
has more direction than I do.
And he knows me; I am the girl there every Wednesday evening;
his encounters with me on the way from the door,
through aisle three,
to the refrigerator in the back, where he picks up his
lowfat 2% milk, have told him more than hour-long sessions
with the therapist I could not afford.
More than the psychiatrist with his 100mg Effexor RX.
More than phone arguments and crying in the bathroom
with my ex.
More than late-night noise and mornings spent with blankets,
coffee, and swollen eyes.
Even more than pitiful fingernail lines
along my neck and arms.
So what more do the children know of me,
in their nothing-to-hide eyes and sudden hushed silence?
I stop cradling my knee and rise from the floor.
This isn't the time to whine.
This isn't the time to reminisce.
This isn't the time to cry.
This isn't the time to regret.
This isn't the time for self-denial.
I breathe out.
RESET! FRONT POSITIONS!
RIGHT FOOT OUT AT ELBOWS!
GOOD HORSE STANCES! KNEES BENT! FISTS TIGHT! HANDS AT ELBOW POSITION!
I breathe in - God.
And He said to me of them, "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you."