"the sky hung on a street pole"
I open up my marking book.
Jayden is doing well in reading,
not quite grade level,
but with practice, he will do fine, I say.
She doesn’t hear me.
Her eyes starved of all light.
Tells a story. It spools inside
me like a memory stuck
in park. As she unlocked her door
that night, the sky hung
on a street pole, her eyes half-shut
still, rocking with sleep.
Two cops stood there; hands heavy
with photographs of her twelve-year-old,
stretched-out on a street so close to this school.
Blood like clouds circled her temples.
Her girl, the quiet one, who drenched
her hair in the colors of summer—
cornflower and evergreen,
etched stars across her forehead,
shot dead. The sun beats the East River
tonight, our horizon is on fire.
She says this over and over—
I sent her to the store, I just sent her out
for bread. Silence slips into my classroom takes
a seat. I lower my eyes, touch her fingers,
the knuckles where they bulge,
the jagged nails. Inhale. Jayden doing okay,
that’s good, she murmurs. Folds his report
card into fourths, zips up her jacket.
Roxanne Cardona was born in New York City of Puerto Rican heritage. She was a principal and educator in the South Bronx and is finishing up a manuscript based on her experiences. She has been published in One Art: A Journal of Poetry, Connecticut River Review, Pine Hills Review, Mason Street, Ethel Zine, Constellations, Commuter Lit, (where her poem “Raven” was chosen for poetry week) and elsewhere. Roxanne lives in New Jersey with her husband.