First Touch

In the morning,
he carries his chocolate milk to his seat
in the classroom.
It is late.
He is a six year old with a wobbling styrofoam plate
of unfinished breakfast.
The dirty winter coat is still on,
sandy brown hair, unkempt
crust still in his eyes
not wiped away from a tender hand.
The other children take out their books to start reading.
He opens his chocolate milk.
But there is no straw.
He leans on one leg using the other to wobble a chair
back and forth until the chair tips.
He is concentrating on opening the milk carton.
With one tip too long, the chair topples over.
17 heads, startled by the deep thud on the carpet
pull away from the pages of Little Critter and Dr. Seuss.
A little girl announces his mistake to the teacher
standing at the sink,
as if she didn’t hear it.
The teacher looks for the straw in the cupboard.
When the teacher does not respond to the noise,
the children go back to their reading.
His back is to her as she approaches.
She hands the straw over the little boy’s shoulder,
waits for him to take it,
picks up the chair,
waits for him to sit again
and places her hand on his head –
His first touch of the day.
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