After School

I look under bridges, rocks,
in culverts and stumps
for people I can teach.
Like Celeste, who hid under the street
to learn long division,
with me and my books I did not appreciate
because I got them free from the rest of you,
free from her alcoholic mother,
who didn’t miss us,
and my diabetic father,
who did. “Don’t you need more light?”
he asks me now,
but I have been reading in the dark for a long time,
after school, and after midnight,
meeting teachers in abandoned houses,
by candle, moon, or flash,
touching texts I didn’t pay for
but saved for those who would come to me.
And the cars hiss over our heads on their way
home from work. The columns lengthen,
rubber against asphalt, number upon
number. “You’ll never be able to catch up!”
our teacher said to Celeste, whose mother
made her stay home to clean house,
whose sister hung herself in jail,
and as rain water seeped in and wet our dresses
I glowed proud as a parent, sure I had defeated
the prophetic borrowing and carrying, as we divided until
supper time
when we crawled out into the twilight,
spotted with drainage,

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About the Author

Dr. Belinda Bruner reaches into her communities with offerings of her writing, her enrichment curriculum for young people, and with interactive lectures. She comes from the forests of Southeastern Oklahoma where she was reared in a family of singers and story-tellers. She is currently seeking representation for her novel based on her great-grandmother's time with Pancho Villa's militia. She was conceived under a chinaberry tree during the Perseids meteor shower in the 60s. In addition to her skill as a writer, Belinda holds an undergraduate degree in vocal music.

Belinda Bruner
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