"Old Classroom" by Ngurah Arya.
© Please do not reproduce without artist's permission.
TEACH FOR AMERICA
by James Dulin
He calls me Boss probably like his father
would have. My whiteness glares at me
from his teeth. He must recognize me
I’m here twice a week ordering a bacon, egg, and cheese
on a roll. I sloppily eat at a desk before my first period class
breaks the silence with all of their seventh grader-ness.
I hate how the Bronx is supposed to stop at school doors.
I ask them to remove their hoodies like I’m told. I don’t care,
but I don’t want to get yelled at. Still a kid myself,
I never learned how to stand up to bullies, like the principal,
my whiteness. I follow rules to avoid hassle,
call Stephen’s mom because he refuses to not eat hot Cheetos.
She promises to beat him when he gets home. I wish
I hadn’t called. Rafael sweeps the room at the end of the day
as I pick up crumpled doodles. He tells me,
in a thick accent, I need to be stricter and I nod.
I yell like I’m supposed to and students quiet. Victor can’t respect
a teacher who doesn’t yell. I lecture them about how education
grants dreams and assume they all want to leave the Bronx.
I never think those words, but I promise them everything else
like success means escape. I escape back to college
and another degree while I figure shit out. I have so many excuses
for why I left.
James Dulin is a poet and educator from Grand Rapids, MI currently living in Boston. He has been a member of the 2012 University of Michigan Slam Team and the 2015 Eclectic Truth Slam Team, winners of the 2015 Red Stick Regional Slam. His work can be found on the Write About Now poetry channel, in ZO Magazine, and in FreezeRay Poetry.
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