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Benjamin Alire Sáenz

            Students I See Every Day

                                                Students who carry themselves

like treasures everybody wants this body--why shouldn't they
want to touch? Look all you want.
And students who

wear clothes to make sure no one notices they even
have a body because they have already learned to hate

themselves because of what a father or a mother or an
uncle or an adult (they did not even know) did to them

when they were too young to understand anything about
bodies, and so, now, they want to make sure you do not

ever see them. And students who wear earrings on their
tongues and brows and bellies and lips and in places

you can barely imagine. Students, completely unadorned, not
so much as a watch. Students who carry burdens like backpacks

too much homework that makes too little sense, too little time, brothers
and sisters who want you home and ask you for time you do not

have and mothers and fathers who need help to make ends meet,
and who do not understand what it means to be a student--

and a car that threatens to die every day and the cop who is writing you
a ticket wanting to know exactly why you don't have insurance

and don't you know you're a menace, and you want to scream
and scream and tell him "lend me the fucking money, then,"

and girlfriends and boyfriends who take and give but take and give
at the worst possible times and professors who care too much

and want to know why you don't care, and professors who
don't give a damn and nobody told me it would be this way

at twenty.
And students who sit reading books on a step
smoking cigarettes, and you think what is it like to be reading

what book? What is it like for your mind to be learning.
God, you've forgotten. You try to scan the cover

of the book, searching for the author, the name
as you walk by and you think you see the name Plato

and suddenly you remember the first time you had
to explain the cave and the world of perfect

forms. The student smiles back at you and you think,
God, young people smile at me every day. Every day

of my life. Students who want a job. Students who want
to learn. Students who make you invisible because you

are not young and will never be young again and they see
only what belongs to their world. And you, you do not

belong. Students who nod at you and call you sir and ask
polite questions because they have been taught to be kind

and to be respectful of their elders and you are about
the same age as their fathers and so they nod at you

and you think that maybe the world is not such a bad
place. Students who accuse themselves of being guilty

of all sins. Students who do not think they could possibly
be guilty of anything. Students who think that every day

is too long. Students who wish the day was longer, longer
because then they would have the time to finish everything

they have started and still have time to get that sleep
they need even more than they need that extra dollar.

Students who think that all of this will never, ever end.

Copyright © 2003 Benjamin Alire Sáenz

About the poet.

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Issue #31, February, 2003 :
Santa Fe Poetry Broadside.