2020 and I do not know
if this poem or my students
will age with grace, or at all.
I teach with a group
which has offered free lessons
to those quarantine
has affected in China.
English classes pile up,
a taut line of thirty-three
minute blocks which stretch into my late nights
and my students’ afternoons.
Some of the toddlers, too young
for our program but enrolled
by desperate parents, jump
and holler. They are so happy to see
the American Teacher. Technology
still captivating, transporting
them through my webcam
to the tiny dollar-store classroom
I’ve built around my desk.
We learn what a “park” is,
what a “playground” and “school”
are. They tell me they can’t
go to the park right now.
We learn “sunny”, “rainy”, “windy”.
The pre-made lesson makes me ask
what their weather is like today.
They tell me they don’t know.
Two weeks ago, my classes were
always full, parents sitting
restless kids in front of tablets
to engage in something intelligent
for thirty-three minutes. My four-
seat class would have seven
students, siblings doubling up
and shouting over each other.
This week, over half my students
are absent. Others ask
why classmates are offline.
I tell them I don’t know.
Nat Reid is a senior undergrad at the University of Central Florida. While her greatest writing interest lies in developing narrative for video games, she fell in love with poetry in her teens and wrote often about her life in rural Florida. The Florida scrublands still leak into many of her works, with coyotes and mosquitos crawling onto the page in ways she doesn’t always expect. In her literary career, she currently dabbles in a bit of poetry, a bit of short fiction, and a lot of documentation, concept art, and story trees for video games that currently only exist as concepts on paper. She is fascinated with the duality of technology and nature in modern life, and her works often include aspects of one or both. Her goal in writing is to imagine, explore, and maybe even communicate the experiences of children, animals, and plants in a desire to better understand them. When not writing or playing games, she can be found creating digital art inspired by mid-century advertising and recipe books, photos from the Hubble telescope, and chubby cats people post on the internet.