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Hoover Street School
     for Blanche Elizabeth Cole O'Connor
by Sharmagne Leland-St. John

She met me at the school yard gate
On that damp wintry day in January
Beyond the chain-link fence
On the slick sidewalk
Near downtown L.A.
In a drizzle, she waited,
For the bell to ring.

Caught up in a torrent of children
In this tidal wave of students
I was swept along
Toward her and home.

7 years old and in the first
Semester of second grade.
Missing front teeth, forming a window
From which my tongue could gaze out,
At the world
Unhampered by milk teeth

My report card clenched
In a wet, mitten-clad hand.
The blue-black ink
Bleeding down the page
Into blurred columns
Of As and Bs and
A smattering of Cs

As she tucked a muffler
Into the scratchy collar
Of my navy wool coat,
With the brass buttons,
A gift from my father, she asks
With a question mark in her voice
“2B or not 2B?”

For someone raised
On the wrong side of the tracks
In Pacific, Missouri
During the Roaring '20s
She had, through necessity,
A fine and sophisticated,
Unparalleled sense of humour.


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