>first things second, last things first

>

His teacher crawls under

the lunchroom table to read

with Gabriel  – upside down.

She holds his attention with her

sparkly sneakers pressing the book

gently to the underside of the table.

The first three battles she chooses:

writing his name without snapping

the pencil in half; learning to trust

rules about sharing the few books

on the shelf next to the radiator

that burns every time he touches it.

Standing quietly in the recess line

won’t happen until he learns

to trust direction. Gabriel cannot tell

what has happened before

and what might still happen after;

the top from the bottom, the inside

from the outside, sitting on the back

steps of a porch, or sitting at the front

of a classroom, waiting for someone

to show up or for someone to let him in.

 

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About redmitten

author of Cracking Geodes Open, Making Good Use of August, and The Peppermint Bottle. poetry editor for IthacaLit and YB Poetry Journal. website: https://toomuchaugust.wordpress.com

3 responses to “>first things second, last things first

  1. >Amazing pictures, great poem. Can I share the poem for the Poem of the Week section on my blog?Mel

  2. >melanie- i'd be honored, yes. (and thank you!)the poem was from this year's napo before i had to throw in the towel.the photos are mine (ha! usually i am lifting my father's photos or those of someone else)and are of places on my daily path to/from work. i've been working at seeing things differently (taking the time to do so) because of these kids my daughter teaches. the story is hers. she teaches in an after-school program for kids with social and/or emotional struggles. in the summer, this is a full time position. she was telling me one day she's been learning how to *reach gabriel* by crawling under the lunchroom table with him and seeing things the way he sees them. and she's learned to pick her battles. before gabriel can learn, there are other issues in his life that are getting in the way of having a calm secure mind. so instead of insisting he stand quietly in line, she has been working with him on what is up and what is down and what is before and what is after. (do we remember being so young that we didn't know the difference between before and after?) she is instructed to call child protection services for any child who has not been picked up by 6 pm. some of her kids are forgotten and she calls cps about once a week. wrenches one's heart. anyway, the poem is an attempt to see what she sees when she teaches, and an attempt to show how *gabriel* doesn't see things the way we generally see things.

  3. >This is the first one of your posts I read. I was impressed, for the beauty of the poem and the power of the photographs, and for what it reminded me, of why kids who've been neglected, or have special needs require a different approach; and you say it effectively in so few words, with "telling" details, like the fact that the radiator burns, every time Gabriel touches it- making it so evident to the reader, no matter what his age, this child is learning as if he were new born. I'm sure your daughter is making a huge difference in children's lives. I have a friend who works with kids with autism, and I admire her patience and dedication.

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