Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Good Sister

Oh how good she was
with other people’s children.
She taught kindergarten;
and year after year,
Hmong parents brought her
their hesitant children
to be introduced
into the American system.
She taught them in Hmong
and English, even some
Spanish, easing them
into the complex world.

She started out young, married
to her widowed brother-in-law,
when her sister died
from a botched operation.
Her nieces and nephews
became her sons and daughters.
But her husband eloped
with some closely related woman.
And she was left
with an empty house
and a roomful of children
in her kindergarten.

Word of mouth spread
of the good teacher.
And year after year,
we crossed school boundaries,
lied about our incomes
so we could bring our children
to this good sister
to ease into a new life.

Years after our children had moved
into the upper grades,
we would hear from her,
when some other parent passed
a hello from the teacher:
she wanted us to know
she was doing well, had found a man
who loved her,
and was married.

Then we heard she was ill,
dying from cancer.
We planned to go see her
but never had the time.
And when she died,
we said: Oh how good she was
with our children.

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