What’s Wrong

Patrick Faller
Jun 15 · 2 min read

Because your students were painting,
brushes needed washed
just minutes before the bell.

A line formed on you.
Young eyes caught you peeling
caked bristles nimbly,

so water from the tap could loosen
congealed pigment. Beneath
your nails the skin had cracked

despite nightly lotioning.
(All that water running
over them daily, it figures.)

What the kids made of your skin,
the quickness with which you thinned
paint-encrusted brush tips,

likely wasn’t much.
Kids won’t do the job
well enough, you said. Some

might; most would rather
stand their brushes in the bin
without rinsing them first.

Water clouded the drain.
Kids returned the way they came,
pushing past classmates in line,

the orderly rows of desks
disrupted — though what irked you
wasn’t their lack of sense

to go another way,
but how you and I both
forgave them, swinging the bar

ever lower, dismissing
callousness as symptomatic
of some larger illness

we might diagnose
but couldn’t treat on our own.
To let water free pigment —

to see it reliquified —
wasn’t enough. Once,
you let crawl into your arms

a young girl believed
by your colleagues to be
suffering abuses at home.

Questions of propriety went
for a few minutes unanswered
while you held her, this one

for whom lights couldn’t burn bright
enough or fans stir away
the day’s humidity completely.


Image credit: Cel Lisboa via Unsplash

Patrick Faller

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When teaching, I aim to help students use writing to connect with their passions. When writing, I try to guide readers toward what they might have missed.