What We Do Not Know
A little girl, no more than nine
Walks among strangers
On the old avenue. She
Is on her way to school.
Her head is bowed, her step
Is heavy. She’s seen too much
Each morning before school beckons,
She buys a sandwich from
The corner store, half
For breakfast, the rest for lunch.
School is bright and cheery,
Her teacher understands
This little girl, no more than nine,
Whose eyes have already dimmed.
In math class, she is quiet,
Dutifully scratching her figures
In her brother’s last year’s notebook.
She is quite good in math, her teacher
Can’t help but notice. But questions
Fall on deaf ears, she seldom likes
To answer. The teacher understands.
Sometimes when she is reading alone
In the back of the room, the teacher
Sees her smile. The book has come alive
In her hands, she can save the day.
Recess seems to scare this girl,
The teacher lets her stay in
And help with whatever can be done,
It does not matter what,
As long as the teacher says
How nice you look, and thank you
Very much. I couldn’t keep my room
So nice without your help.
In art class, this little girl,
Comes alive and sparkles.
Her paintings line the school hallways
And her black and white drawings
Have won praise from kids and teachers alike.
Yet homework seldom is complete
And papers seldom signed,
The teacher understands, has seen
This scene before.
Calls and letters home have gone
Unanswered, no one seems to care.
On parent’s night and conference day,
The little girl’s seat is empty.
A deal is made, for homework done
And papers signed, an extra art class
Can be arranged. How simple
And powerful, the little girl,
No more than nine, can earn
The right to hope.
More often than not now,
The girl’s work is complete
And offered with a smile
To her smiling teacher.
The year passes, and the last day
Arrives. A smiling girl, no more
Than ten now, runs into the room,
Clutching a letter to her chest,
Then thrusts it at her teacher.
Thank you for everything, you’ve
Meant so much to my daughter,
She loves you as do I.
That was all the letter said.
Years later, the girl, now close
To twenty, reappears, bounce in her step.
I never told you what you meant to me,
My mother was dying that year
I know that I was difficult to like
But you still believed in me.
My first art show opens tomorrow
Would you be my guest of honor.