Just A Moment
While carrying copies of our latest poetry book
to my colleague and illustrator,
I race down the hall to the back of the school,
hoping that she’s eating lunch in her room.
My heart is pounding with delight,
my visitor’s tag is flapping in the breeze.
Sweat is beading on my forehead,
and rolling into my left eye. It burns.
I cannot wait to show this gifted artist
how well her illustrations turned out
in our third poetry book for kids.
I know that she will be ecstatic.
But I slow down as I approach her room
and peek into another teacher’s room—
one whom I admired for her teaching ideas,
zest in teaching, and sensitivity to others.
Some would call her a “mover and shaker.”
I call her passionate, professional, and perky.
Some kids near the door are chanting repeatedly,
“Someone is at the door! Someone is at the door!”
As I open the door and stroll through,
I say, “Someone silly is here”—hoping the kids
will laugh and enjoy the moment.
And I take a close look at Ms. Perky.
I see this former cheerleader, valedictorian,
and 3rd grade team member hunched over her desk,
looking shorter than I used to remember her.
Retirement is not too far off for her.
Suddenly I am blinded by the reasons I left
teaching public school—teaching for the test,
test mandates, district goals, building goals, and
personal goals that were not that personal.
I stumble toward Ms. Perky who is rooted
at her desk with one student seated nearby,
while the rest of the class pretends to do math,
as they eyeball me clutching ten poetry books.
She tells me that her son’s college roommate
had me in elementary school as a teacher
(in this same room that we are in now),
and he discovered the love of writing here.
I am surprised by this wonderful compliment
that seems to have come out of leftfield.
So I simply say, “Invite me in to do poetry.”
Winking I add, “Give yourself a poetry break.”
I don’t hear cheers for a poetry visit
from a tired and gray Ms. Perky,
but the boy at the table says,
“How much is your book?”
Ms. Perky launches instant dart eyes at him,
yet they bounce off of his rubber face
and he says, “I have money in my lunch bag.”
Ms. Perky ignores the outspoken student.
She says, “Yes, I should.” But she won’t.
Poetry is a marginal activity.
And there are tests to be taken,
and benchmarks to be met.