Over the years, I taught so many classes
in many different schools,
long-term or short.
Hundreds and hundreds of students,
all ages, three to eighteen years old.
But how could I remember
all of them?
I was the teacher; they were there to learn.
Those were our roles; that was the contract.
They would move up and I move on, for all of us
always a new beginning.
But now and then
one will return to haunt me, like the girl
whose secret friend, Little Mister Hansford,
drove a tiny red plastic car.
I keep it now, in my drawer,
The boy, his skin
flaking and cracked with eczema, trying to resist
the urge to scratch, but always failing.
How could he bear to wake each day to face that life?
Yet I was proud he claimed me for his brother;
On a school exchange visit,
an older girl, seventeen,
crossing the Alps in a coach,
moved beyond tears
by her first sight of real mountains.
Do they remember?
Maybe they do.
A young man I met by chance
one day on a Spanish street
surprised me by recalling
how I read Winnie-the-Pooh when he was small,
and did the animals in different voices.
So many children, so many years have gone,
but memories, like love, can linger on.
"He do the police in different voices" was the original title of T.S. Eliot's "The Waste Land".