Meadow Glen Mall
The kids say Ghetto Glen, & tag themselves,
but who having stood here & walked inside
the artless stone would not also sing
that absence of pretense is attractive dress?
Old Italian men, their working suns set
out on the ice like Inuits, take perpetual last coffees
together. Their talk familiar to me as the Irish
names in my September rankbook, families
who walk to Kohl’s from one-dollar houses,
grandmother still on the first floor, to cross River-
side Ave, & from the Heights, Brazilians
in impossible jeans wander to be seen.
On weekends, teens bored their way into the sugary
Chinese of Panda Village; in IParty, teen clerks tie
balloons I’ve stuffed into the bubbling trunk.
I see ex-students – Renata, who floored the boys
but stood aloof, & Thomas, the Dominican
whose luminous eyes learned me by the third day.
In Sunday best, the Haitians queue to Old Country
Buffet flows out the door, every daughter a Saint.
It’s really homeroom. They want
us to call it that – fulfills a state
mandate- a team of our fellows came to
our school & saw the students sans
adults tending to their well-
being. We promised to fulfill all
such expectations. In the late 80s,
I feared my teachers as vampires
joking they returned to their wooden
desks that in the moonlight, became coffins.
Some terrible suckers must have invited them in.
I saw the chalkboard on the first day of Yearbook
in 1988: School sucks, do bongs – the teacher exhaling
poorly feigned shock, purporting
it was scrawled by a burn-out.
I know now the hoary head was sad-
laughing his way through merci-
less dust. I’ve learned to respect
this morning’s quintessence: K.’s trusting
stare at me, his greasy, tousled hair, asking if
he may get some water. Why not?
He asks me what to do about his sore knee.
When I ask where the pain is, he hikes his slacks.
It’s around the joint. What should I do?
He’s on a plan that one of us doesn’t know
the details of. I tell him Relax,
we are still before the bell
& that I think he will be alright,
but the nurse should see him. That’s what
she’s here for, right?
You see me, right?
Yes, I say, I am looking at you,
& we’re talking to each other. Don’t worry,
I won’t mark you absent.