The night class I dread, somebody
always wanting something—
little birds waiting for food,
wide open beaks, mouths agape—
the feeding as sacrifice.
One of the older students always
coming at me with worn spidery skin,
the brassy blonde pony tail, a band-aid
stretched across her nose. Always
coughing, saying Sorry, coughing again.
Always asking me to proofread
her résumé, poems, the children’s story
she’d written with her shaky hand.
As if you had time, my officemate says.
I agree, but scratch off a few comments.
Tonight, I let class out early.
On my way to my car, I hear
the phlegmy cough rattling
from the bus stop shelter.
I quicken my pace through the dark lot.
At home, I pour a glass of merlot,
sit down to read the homework—
Thank you letters, using specifics,
to show appreciation to the person
who has been the greatest help of all.
Between notes to Mom, the favorite uncle,
a generous boss, I find a letter written
on pink stationary, embossed with gold roses.
The letter is addressed to me, the shaky hand
claims there is nobody else.