Rye Middle School
by Lynne Viti

Rows of desks, windows open to grass and parking lot,
Fluorescent light bathing thirteen-year-olds in a faint, bluish glow.
When I smiled and was kind, they were little monsters.
When I became a Marine, gave out detentions,
Made their mothers them my collaborators—
Suggested they withhold televisions, sleepovers, the football—
the classroom became orderly, no circled desks,
no open classroom, only rows of kids—quiet, compliant.
Open notebooks, textbooks, no smirks, coats off,
Even the vice-principal gave me r-e-s-p-e-c-t-
now that I wasn’t sending miscreants to his office.
They’d be in their fifties by now
The women dyeing their hair,
the men paunchy and grizzled.
Better to think of them in that overheated classroom,
Trying to hide their bodies in identical army green parkas.
Take off your jackets, ladies and gentlemen, I hear myself say.
This is not a bus station.
Open your books to page 70
Let’s get started.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Five of my students, last day of school, June 1971,  Rye Middle School, Rye, New York. (Photo by Lynne Viti.)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I wrote this  after I spent an hour thumbing through an old photo album, while decluttering a closet in the basement. I was amazed that I remembered the names of these kids I taught so long ago—when Richard Nixon was in the oval office!

PHOTO (left): The author, first year of teaching, in front of our apartment building 435 Riverside Drive, Manhattan. (Photo by Richard True.)

VITI 2016

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Viti teaches in the Writing Program at Wellesley College. Her chapbook, Baltimore Girls, was published in March 2017 by Finishing Line. Press Her writing has appeared in  over 60 online and print venues, most recently, Stillwater Review, Bear Review, In-Flight Magazine, Tin Lunchbox, Lost Sparrow, South Florida Poetry Journal, Little Patuxent Review, Amuse-Bouche, Paterson Review, and The Baltimore Sun. She blogs at stillinschool.wordpress.com. Find her on Twitter @LynneViti. (Photo by Thomas Viti.)