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  • Writer's pictureErin Snedeker


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,

Exhausted, drained

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.

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