It always hurt

Perhaps, thankfully, because it’s so rare,
it can suck the wind out of you,
as if some big-ass monster
has sucker-punched you so hard
it nearly kills you,
your heart stopping dead
for an instant
when it happens.

And you’re so glad, when you catch one,
it’s not your own student,
because that is the worst case.

Only three times, over nearly 24 years,
I caught a student of mine.

Maybe because I’m Korean.
Viking Norwegian doesn’t help either,
I didn’t control my temper well,
that failed commeddling of blood and judgment.

I lost sight of my primary duty,
which was to help, to understand.

One was belligerent, indignant.
He came back once, a few years later,
to borrow a calculator.
I loaned him mine.
He said nothing, left.
Hard, cold.

The second arranged, I heard,
with all future professors,
to allow him taking exams
in their offices,
while these so very kind teachers
proctored the other students in class . . . .

The third,
one of my all-time KOKUA favorites,
emailed me to apologize.
I never saw him again.

If I’d been the age I am now,
I hope I would have handled everything better,
but back then I just wanted to cry
scream at top volume,
but instead I yelled
as softly as I could
because there were so many honorable students
taking exams in our disability services office,
who needed absolute quiet —

the quiet you can barely give them
when you’re so angry,
you lose control
over a lack of respect for the KOKUA Program,
for the disability rights we stand for,
advocate for —
over the breaking of a bond that’s been made.

But I could only see proverbial red back then.
I know I should have done a better job.
Even I knew.
Hell, I’ve been in desperate straits too.

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