The Best Reason


The Best Reason

you are the one 
whose picture I keep pinned 
above my desk 
for days that I wonder
why I do this 

you were my best reason
for teaching  
1999: new student
bruised arms, far too thin
you stood 
in my classroom doorway 
with your grandmother 
holding her hand 

after she left school
you had a complete meltdown
began breaking pencils 
in triads with your bare hands 

so many broken pencils
scattered across the floor 

your speech was slurred 
you had tell-tale tics
I wondered 
about your story 
learned your grandmother 
was your angel 
a savior who stepped 
in and saved your life 
because daddy was gone and
mama had beaten your ears 
so severely with shoes 
that you could barely hear 

when I spoke 
you tilted your head 
at a sideways angle 
to put your one able ear 
in position to listen 

you took most of your lunch 
to your backpack 
to share with your siblings 
there wasn’t much 
with six of you 

I knew you were sharing 
even hungry yourself
I started slipping in extras 
for you to find later 

you were a child 
ahead of your years 
knew things your peers did not 
were the smartest student 
in the class 
Principal’s Honor Roll 
the kid in Coke bottle glasses 
who couldn’t hear 
whose smile brought tears 

and still does
when I look at that picture
of you and your grandma
smiling in the cafeteria
on Math Night 

you are the best reason 
that I kept teaching

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