A roomful of faces lined up in rows


That girl,
No you missed her,
That girl.
Too old to be sounding out “monkey”
Too old to spell it with a q.
Much too old to need her fingers to add.
Her clothes stink,
Her butt crack sticks out,
Her burgeoning body is more than naked
Seen through that threadbare shirt.
She yearns for a home she can’t imagine.
She doesn’t know
We don’t all watch our baby sisters till bedtime so
Stepdad can work on getting mom and grandma pregnant
So mom, when it isn’t her turn, can cook that
Meth, pay rent, and make her daughter’s rags smell like cat piss.
So grandma, when it isn’t her turn, can teach the girl about
Blowjobs and weed and how to shoot an ounce of vodka like a
Tired ugly hooker.
Somebody told her school would make it better so
There she is, sounding out “monkey” and spelling it with a “q”.
I give her string for her pants, a clean shirt for the stink, and say,
“M. O. N. K. E. Y.”


That boy in the corner rocking and groaning, staring at the online test?
The one who punched an aide last week for no reason?
His brain broke when he was 4.
There’s a word for it, something pithy and easy to say.
But living it?
He understands everything but
Can barely talk or make much eye contact or control his hands when he’s excited
(Sometimes the other boys remind him quietly to get his
Fingers out of his fly)
He can read and write and draw and count when he isn’t
Overwhelmed because his socks itch and the dust falling through the air
Glitters in a shaft of sunlight and Ricky is picking his nose in the back row and
Ericka is hugging herself and smelling her shirt and Sam has
Paper claws he’s hiding in his desk and the texture of his book is indented with inkless writing almost legible after all these years that might say Tine loves Alien and the memory of punching that lady who told him no eighteen times bites him like a
Fire ant up his pants.
So I take him someplace quiet and say I don’t care if he passes the test; I just want to see an honest try.

He says the only sentence I will ever hear from him:
“I love you.”
When he can’t see me, I cry.

This, this is my yearning for justice.

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