My second grade teacher

was proud of being six foot six.

She looked like a fire-eating dragon to me.

With flashing eyes she terrified us

as she inspected our ears and nails

every morning.

With nimble fingers

and flame-red fingernails

she explored our scalps

and the roots of our hair

in her daily quest for pinworms.

A former WAC during WWII,

she barked at us like an army sergeant:

Why be an old Ford, when you can be

a Rolls Royce?

After inspection, she began each class

with her favorite joke:

If you’re not here,

please raise your hand.

It wasn’t until I studied the Great Books

Program in college that I realized

despite of her fierce demeanor,

she embraced us with unconditional love

and taught the Socratic method,

imparting an astonishing clarity

about the meaning of life.