The Substitute Teacher


The big tree fell on the school’s square

breaking benches and one statue. 

The wind did not cease till dawn.

The students missed the shade.


They are waiting for the substitute teacher,

a reader with a sweet voice, 

reading stories like a song.


She doesn’t want them 

to draw gardens, bees, and butterflies,

or photosynthesis.


Think of matrices, play with curvatures

Observe an ant walk on a crumpled white paper,

Imagine a hen in a forest, she tells them.


“Throw colored water at one another.”

Where are the elephants decked with flowers, garlands 

of pink and saffron, the street corners crowded with rickshaws,

aromatic “spice that comes from the stamen of crocuses”?


They are shadows of her moves,

Inflections of her voice:

mirrors and echoes

of a noble path she walks.


Before the end of one class

Everyone hears her says

“Don’t be afraid

of dragons.”


For one moment, she thinks

she sees a hesitation,

as if they see sparks,

tiny jets of flame,

before they grab

their backpacks.