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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & Owner
Ray Rasmussen, General Editor

Volume 11, Number 2, June 2017

Donna Buck
Carlsbad, California, USA

The Ninth Step
For Jeremy

I could return . . .
how slowly
snow melts this winter
on so many private griefs

From nowhere, this hateful Facebook message. How did he find me after all these years? I can't place the name. What grade was he in when I was his teacher? Was I harsh? He also mentions another teacher in the message, so I contact my colleague and ask if he remembers the student. He doesn't and he doesn't care; he never expected all his students to like him.

Such hostility must be a tremendous burden. And I'm baffled. Awards. Promotions. A research article about my work. Yet this hot hatred. His need to let me know.

Fragments of memories. We're in my office. She holds some of his writing work and a reading test report. She wants to know why her son is so far behind. What are we doing to help him? I sigh. My impacted program is a Band-Aid to meet funding guidelines. How does she expect me to make unrealistic strides with 400 participants?

"I understand," she interrupts me. "Your 400 students. But I have only one little boy."

I see him now. A small boy for his age, never still. We're writing stories; he's sounding out a word. I tell him it starts with M. "What's an M?" he asks. Another student chides him: "Two mountains."

A friend in recovery is reaching the ninth step. She tells me that to work on restitution she's seeking out those she's harmed. Everyone should do this, she adds. Everyone should make a list.

I message my student back, hoping he'll see that I've heard him, that I'm sorry for hurting him as I must have done. I wish him well.

He doesn't respond. I begin my list.

for a stolen soda
the owner makes me sweep
his shop . . .
centered on the mantle,
my kintsugi bowl

Author's Note: The term kintsugi refers to the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with a lacquer dusted with gold, thus incorporating the repair into a new piece of art.



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