by Emily Dawson
I make room in my heart for other mothers’ children:Previous Honorable Mention
For young women who can’t yet see beyond their own insecurities,
For adolescent men who trip across the line between charming and churlish,
For students who are angry when they meet me,
For learners who have only known failure,
For special snowflakes who see their own importance clearly
But lack the words to understand their privilege,
For children who are cracked and bent by trauma
That’s been doled out by the world,
And for those whose drama is self-created,
Because being sixteen is a trial we must all endure.
I will love the impatient, the unruly,
The somnambulant and fragrant,
The artistic and awkward, the brilliant and bored,
The sensible and serious, the spoiled and the sad,
The self-righteous and the riotous,
The lazy and the learned, the charmer and the clown.
I study their faces to see when an eyebrow arches in contempt or confusion.
I listen, carefully, to what they are NOT saying about success.
I find a spark of brilliance in a sea of deficient-skills
And wear my cheeks out blowing on the embers,
Stoking the glow of competence that can
Burn. This. World. Down.
I hold my breath on weekends
Willing and waiting for these young men and women to
“Be safe and make good choices,”
And come back in one piece on Monday,
Because my concern is packed into the pockets
Of a hundred twenty backpacks,
And more than the homework and the essays,
I need my heart returned for class.