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  • Allison Albino

Everyone Wants To Be Loved,

Updated: May 16

By Allison Albino

even the ones whose book bags are explosions of paper,

even the ones who won’t open their mouths

or who put their heads down on their desk and stare

up at me like zombies who have just fed, even the ones

whose heads turn toward the window

with so much longing, even the ones who never know where

the accents go or who just end up assigning random genders

to words because they feel like they should be feminine,

even the ones whose parents yelled at them the night before

because they never live up to the shifting mark of expectations.

 

Victoria is ten, struggles to spell. We sit at lunch, she writes out

lists of words, putting the accents aigu and grave

over the préfère like little angry eyebrows.

She looks at me. I smile, say Très bien.

She does better on the next quiz.

At the end of the year, I tell her, I’m so proud of you

and she explodes into tears that feel like grief,

because, I realize, no one has ever said this to her before.

 

It should be easy to conjugate to want.

I ask each child Tu en veux?, point to the apple projected onto the board,

and I give every head a turn to say, Oui, j’en veux.

Some can’t decide what it is they want,

but they say yes because yes is easier.

I don’t feel their want.

So I switch from apple

to dark chocolate melted over waffles,

a tiny tower of whipped cream crowned

with a cherry –– and the whole room is filled

with desire. All the hands shoot upwards,

reaching to pull it out of the air.


 

When I’m an Old Teacher

By Allison Albino

 

When my students have grown to their tallest,

are already married with babies or even have their own students,

when the papers graded hits the hundred thousand mark,

and in every purse there is still a red or green pen

mixed in with lipsticks, when teaching seems automatic:

I hope I still get nervous on the first day of school

change my outfit at least three times, have that dream

where I’m standing in the classroom, rambling in Thai

when a kid yells That isn’t French! and I point and yell back Yes, it is!

in Thai, the dream where instead of going into class I run out

the back door through the woods, the dream where I don’t know

what I’m supposed to teach and find myself in a tutu,

at The Metropolitan Opera on opening night, about to dance

Swan Lake when I’ve never danced or ever been a swan

and the lights and curtain go up, and gasping, I wake up.

 

I hope I don’t still need an entire thermos of coffee to get me

through first period, and that teacher complaints and faculty room

gossip is dusted off like it doesn’t matter because it never does.

It’s as interesting as the all the brands of frozen shrimp at Fairway.

I hope school lunches have transformed into four-star 

restaurants but that my soft spot for tater tots remains.

 

I hope to have collected double the amount of Thank-yous 

than children taught. Triple that from the parents,

especially the ones who tried to bully me into giving that A-

or who forgot my name or thought I’d never been to France before

because I’m Filipina and remind them of the nanny that picks

their children up from school. I hope that those children still remember

what adobo tastes like, and that they remember the Tagalog

that sang them to sleep.

 

I hope I still care about teaching French

and if I don’t, then I stopped years before that thought ever entered

my home. I hope I’m not still using the same textbook, or scribbled notes

on legal pads, and that I’m not afraid of computers or whatever computers

graduate into. I hope I’m not repeating the same comments 

where Terrific! equals Whatever, and when a child fails, I chase down

that failure too, hard like the soccer ball that seems faster 

but is not. And when a young girl confides in me, I hope I find me

again, belting Boyz II Men in my bedroom,

when I was in love with everything and everyone

and everything and everyone new kept me up at night

with obsession for more,

with the invincibility to take it all in, take it down, take it

over.  I hope I’m afraid with her, but not for her.

This isn’t the end of the world.

 

And when the children hear poo in the past participle “pu,” crack up

in a tizzy of giggles –– or when a kid points out how close the number

dix-neuf sounds like deez-nuts, I don’t rush so fast to quiet them.

 

I wish that I may still giggle with them                                                

before turning to the next page.





 

Allison Albino is a Filipina-American poet and French teacher who lives and writes in Harlem. Her work has appeared in Narrative, The Indiana Review, Poetry Northwest, The Kenyon Review and elsewhere. She has received fellowships from The Community of Writers, The Kenyon Review and Tin House. She studied creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and has an M.A. in French literature from NYU. She teaches at The Dalton School in New York City. 



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