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  • Last night at the staff farewell party
    Me and 24 women
    Pizza and wine
    10 years building a school,
    every year starts with the welcome song,
    ends with pizza, wine and tears.
    I drank enough ice water to float my teeth.
    Everyone else happy with free wine.

    At the end of the night,
    four of us
    cluster at one end of the long table.
    They are wine free with stories of change.
    I think of the faces come and gone.
    Listen to stories I’ll have to leave
    along with the tip
    there at the table.

    Nicole leans across.
    How do you manage, she asks.
    I think of the school I built.
    The school I’ve had to change.
    The three boys who will work with me,
    missing the class trip tomorrow.
    The parents I spend hours writing diplomatic prose.
    Meetings where the masks come off.
    I think I smile.
    I compartmentalize, I answer.
    They nod.
    It was a good plan for the Titanic, I say
    The wine and chatter around us
    makes communication iffy.
    They smile

    I wake in the dark
    Long before the alarm
    Wonder who’s on deck keeping watch through the long night

    And just like that I am back
    25 years ago
    Running home in the dark and the fog
    Electronics dead, no fathometer, no lights
    Wristwatch says we should hit something soon
    I put my little brother Stephen up in the bows
    He’s crouched alone in the night
    Clutching a blue plastic flashlight
    We ghost along, big diesel ticking over
    I feel the long crunch as we run aground

    What the fuck Stephen, I ask

    I thought you could see, he says.
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