That year started out the same,
Introductions, a checklist of rules and routines
But students are the unpredictable variable
Cece was misplaced, mainstreamed into Gen Ed
In a class full of students who resent those like her
Reminded too much of their madre’s broken English
She sat towards the back and always laughed, hands cradling her chin
She called me abuelita for the canas spreading in my hair
It was our inside joke.
Then one day, a note in the system:
Withdrawn: Whereabouts Unknown…
Words that always fill me with dread,
a sick knot in my chest
Where is she?
Is she sick?
Her undocumented parents don’t want la policia involved.
Better that their child is lost in the land of the free
Than have her deported into an unnamed grave
I save her spot in the back of the class, though I know better
The clamour of kids, circling her coveted seat like lions
“Miss, can I sit back there?” “Miss, why can’t I take her spot?”
“No, that’s Cece’s chair.”
“Miss, you know she ain’t coming back.”
Gloria Darlington is a National Boards Certified Middle School teacher and a mother of two. She has been writing poetry, since she was in middle school. She loves murder mysteries, zombies and complicated board games.