You are my most challenging
Defiance leadens your bones,
Makes harsh your voice.
You pout or yell or scream or cry, and
I am jostled by the waves of kinetic air
That roll from you. You become angrier
That we cannot weather the storm of you.
You, the one we cannot name
The one that we cannot capture
In selfies, even though you are the only
One who will strike a happy pose for the camera,
Eyes up, smile stretching your face from side
To side. A bramble of teeth flashing.
Midnight black, oily hair down to your waist
In an unravelling braid.
You cry at the sight of a housefly
Or when you think we’ve left you alone.
I’m just out of sight, and I come back
To coax you to join the rest of the group
To line up like you were supposed to in the first place.
But I don’t say that. I shoo away the fly.
I tuck you to my side,
You put your arm around my waist.
We talk together.
Your laugh is boisterous, buoyant, contagious.
You delight in mixing the most repulsive concoctions
From the lackluster school lunch.
You smear the mess over your mouth.
You sit next to me at the table every day.
You give me a crooked-jawed smile
And a wink.
You are not the reason why I’m there.
The student that I was hired to help
Needs me less and less these days.
He is ready for the next step in his life,
His eyes fixed on the ever-nearing
Milestone: high school.
But you consume nearly every moment
Of my unoccupied time: gifting me your
Drawings of frazzled, smiling monster people
Or the princess coloring pages with
Only a few harsh lines of crayon
Pressed hard enough to indent the page.
This is what it is to work in a classroom
Filled with children of the most individualized needs.
My most challenging, you have given no sign
That you are aware that you are different.
And when I finally walk you to the bus
At the end of the day,
You give me a hug
Or blow me a kiss
And follow your brother up the steps
Of the small yellow bus.
And I know I will be there in the morning,
To take care of you again.