My Students Write Me Letters

Dear Mr. K,
I was just writing
an essay in nursing school,
and even though I have no idea
why I need to write an essay
in nursing school,
I remembered how you taught me
how to actually write an essay.

Raven hair, alabaster countenance,
and a sneer that transformed
into a scowl which belied a smirk
followed by a bashful smile.

Barely used the margins,
helpful to her friends to a fault,
bright, creative and undereducated,
often blissfully unaware
of goings on about her.

My joy knows no bounds
because she’s in nursing school and
because she learned to write an essay.

Dear Mr. Karpel,
Please forgive me
for taking this long
to say I’m so sorry
for the way I behaved
in your class so many
years and moons ago.
You should not have
taken my chutzpah,
my narrow minded
elitism. I must have been
incredibly agitating.

By 10th grade, her mind
was a spider flinging filament
filament, filament.
Hungry at the edges
of foreign fields, tasting delicacies
in the verses of
Dickinson and Whitman,
in the poems and novels and stories
she lingered in and ingested
like a black widow.
How could I not
give her some leeway?

Mr. K,
Thank you so much for your
wonderful letter. Amen to all
of your blessings and well wishes.
I’m almost done serving.
It has been an incredible three years.
I don’t know what’s next,
but I’m ready for it.

Trickster, jokester, follower,
fierce fan, loyal friend,
a struggler in the classroom,
a determined learner
now an Israeli soldier,
stripes under his shoulder.

He frustrated the hell out of me,
but he made me laugh
and I dug his gumption.

[sc name="ad-300x600"]

Mr. Karpel,
It’s weird how I’m a mother now
and I see you on Facebook
but I still call you Mr. Karpel.
So I’m applying for a job in CH
and I was hoping to list you
as a possible recommendation?

An apple wearing metallic disco pants
explodes against the window
in the back of the classroom.
Her friends shake their heads
and look back down at their work.
“I feel better now.”
“Okay. Do you need to wash up?”
“I should clean that.”
“You should.”
“I’ll be right back”
“We’ll be here waiting for you with nervous anticipation.”
“Don’t be sarcastic right now.”
“Go ahead and get some paper towels.”
_______ follows her out with a nod in my direction.

Everyone lies.
I know it’s been a long time.
What, like 12 years? 14?
Long years. But hear we are.
Here. I mean here.
Thanks for writing every once in a while
since I friended you.
You remember that shit with my father?
He got sober a long time.
Or so I thought.
I just found a pipe in his drawer.
Why would he leave it there?
It’s a trap, too. I’ll tell you.
That’s where he keeps some bank
and he knew I was skimming.
If I accuse, then I lose.

For you I have cried countless tears
and you will never know it.
It’s not something you want to know.
You work behind counters
and wear logos on your clothes.
You’ve been married and divorced
and you’ve lost a few friends to overdose.
One of your classmates recently wrote me.
He’s been in and out of jail and he’s a neo-Nazi.
“Even though you’re a Jew,” he wrote,
“you were the only teacher who…”
Every so often I drop a pm in your direction
asking about your dad who toked,
asking about your sister who cut,
asking about your Christian mother in Minnesota,
only to now find out you’re moving to California.
You wanted stability more than anything
and you have yet to find it.



Image from Flickr.