June: a harried month
with all the joys and sorrows
that make up this life
birthdays as i age
are all about the blossoms
(petal by petal)
even candy blooms
from a fasting student’s heart
here, home, on my desk
my kids who text me daily
my kids, yes, my kids
did she read my words?
did she see what i just wrote?
alas, i’m tired
i want to see them
just as he does, biking there
in the midst of lunch
seeing their faces,
having a conversation
without this damn screen
Do you know why he makes me so angry? Do you know why I screamed at him (during passing period) in front of the entire class? Why I was still yelling after the last bell, spilling the whole story to my two unwilling-to-listen-but-forced-to daughters, cuss words and all?
Because I love him.
And I want him to think of me, of all of us, when he doesn’t clean the cat litter or mop the floor. When he pours all the creamer I just bought into one cup of coffee. When he changes his doctor’s appointment that I rearranged my entire day around and had my mother drive across town to bring him to, and doesn’t tell me until two minutes after class STARTS.
I want him to stop running the damn space heater all night long (with the door to his room open) and costing us $100 extra a month.
I want him to care about learning English.
I want him to be my son, to be like my daughters who absolutely drive me crazy in every way and refuse to do chores and forget to turn in work and to tell their boss they can’t work when we have a ski weekend and rearrange their weekends with friends when ski weekends get canceled and then whine about having missed most of the ski season without actually skiing… And get near-perfect grades and would never change a doctor’s appointment without asking me or checking the calendar first.
Alas, I have four teenagers in my house, and one of them is a boy whom I barely know and from a culture I barely understand and from a not-more-than-a-day-in-advance plan that I didn’t take into account when I asked him to move out of the homeless shelter and into my home.
Alas, that $100 a month on electricity matters to me right now because my husband just got laid off from his job and we have until May 21 to live like kings and the rest of our lives to figure out how we’re going to pay for our mortgage and our health insurance, and Bernie lost Super Tuesday and the stock market shot up 1,100 points the very next day because investors care more about health insurance profits than HUMAN LIVES.
Alas, just when things couldn’t be worse at work or anywhere else, the 1998 Camry died, and now I have another weight to carry each day: the shuffling of more teens to every last event from track practice that he (at the last minute) signed up for to musical rehearsal to never-ending-hours of fast-food employment to driving them to school each day.
Alas, I did not raise this boy to check calendars.
And I want him to listen to me. I want him to think about how each phone call and acting-up-in-class-joke and putting-his-head-down-shutdown is a punch into every last dark hollow of my teacher-mother soul.
But it is almost 5 o’clock. And I am going to walk seven blocks and sell tickets to my baby girl’s musical because, yes, I needed one of my tickets comp’ed so I can pay for the space heater and not spend another $12.
And I am going to smile and wear this shirt in front of all the racist white people at her school.
And that is my happy hour for today.
a Valentine game
with two of the four children
this magic cabin
(no romance tonight.
just a son he let me have.
love is beautiful.)
my first tortillas:
will they erase racism
that followed him here?
in eight years of work
none of her clients earned this
how lucky are we?
just one decision
to forever impact us
love in many forms
i cry for the card, for his loss,
for his Iraqi-Syrian past,
for all the burning hours of summer school
where he committed himself
to finishing high school in three years.
i cry for his words, for his loss,
his inescapable self that has hidden
a kind face in a chaotic classroom,
his sly smile catching my every
snuck-in witty remark
(even when no one else could).
i cry for the system, for his loss,
shuffled by our government’s wars
between homelands that stole his home,
for his pride in Iraqi architecture
that he may never see again.
i cry for his future, for his loss,
for how unequivocally kind his soul remains
after all he has witnessed in twenty-one years,
for his brothers who wait under his watchful shadow,
for our country to give him a chance.
i cry for his words, for my loss,
to not have his presence in my classroom,
to have the nicest thing anyone’s
ever written to me
disappear with a graduation ceremony.
i cry for the world, for their loss,
for robbing refugees of their rights,
for keeping the beauty that is him,
that is within all of them,
from sharing their strength
with all of us, inshallah,
for a brighter tomorrow.
that moment at school
when a domestic violence reference
does not register
as a violation of human rights.
that is a teachable moment.
let them write their stories,
their lives poured out on paper
in a language that sifts through their minds
like Lucky Charms marshmallows,
where finding the right words to describe the trees native to their homelands,
the pain of fleeing war,
the parents who missed even grade school,
is like finding that rainbow marshmallow,
the brightest and sweetest:
that will save them.
for today, at least.