(Inspired by Hall Groat’s painting “Fedora Vintage Hat” Oil)
With the bell I dismiss my class.
The quiet one, Ben Suk Lee
who sits third row down, hovers
at my desk when all elbows
stampede to lunch out the door
gives a polite bow, almost
in need of forgiveness for bending
the ground rules of our class
in his new land of opportunity.
With careful, slow, spaced,
broken English he pulls out his gift
from a worn Wal-Mart plastic bag,
a smart-brown small-brim Fedora.
A token of appreciation,
a weeks savings from his part-time
job in the family 7/11 corner store.
he bows, softly mouthing,
Teacher Day, in Korea, gift for you,
to thank my Sensei.
I return the bow, read pride
sincerity in his eyes.
He leaves me standing there
feeling my thirty years in education.
(Third Place Award, Verse Afire, TOPS Contest, 2012)