for Mrs. Slover
I imagine you still at your desk, a little
sweaty as you always were, reading aloud
to us each morning instead of silent prayer.
Gravel-voiced, a blonde from Northern Italy,
you were tough, demanding, even brutal
in your honest way. No time for coddling
or excuses. We adored you. Awkward,
shy, class clown, stutterer, or swaggerer—you gave
us each an equal shot at sixth-grade greatness.
I used to remember the names of all my teachers,
the way some can recite the U.S. Presidents
in order. Teachers were their own branch
of government—dictators. The names are mostly
gone—and now I learn that you’ve been dead
since 1989. Still I feel your benediction.
As summer neared, our closing exercise was
the Class Prophecy. We never dreamed how many
would go to Vietnam or die of AIDS, but saw
instead the statesmen, lawyers, movie stars we
thought we’d all become. No teachers. In our
minds, we would never climb that high.