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Wednesday, June 08, 2022


by Alejandro Escudé

Doors are important in schools.
That’s why when you’re a teacher
they give you lots of keys, keys
that you then have to return when 
you leave for summer break, which
is why leaving for summer break
feels so final, so like confronting
a kind of early retirement, or death.
It’s also why after twenty years
teaching English, I hate doors and
I hate keys, which feel so primitive
to me, those flecks of coded copper
that pinch your upper thigh, get stuck
in your sunglasses, become tangled
up within themselves and you have
to wrestle them free. Once, I lost
a whole set of school keys; I’d
stopped at a gas station and they
slipped out of my dress slacks.
I got home and reached into my
empty pockets, and I felt this
utter panic, my face turned cold.
I drove back and there they were 
beside the fuel pump, laying as if
waiting for me to swipe them.
I looked around and felt a welling
up of gratitude. Who could’ve
had access to this world of youth
that I was in charge of every day?
Who could’ve hurt them? I worked
at a school not long ago who often
left the back door to the gym open.
Mornings, I’d walk by and see
the door propped ajar, inviting 
anyone from off the street to come
inside, take anything they wished
from the locker rooms: gloves,
helmets, jerseys, pompoms, lives.
So I’m empathetic when I read 
about the school shooting, how  
a teacher left the door open. Then 
how it was shown she hadn’t, yet 
locked doors often refuse to stay
locked. Doors like remaining open,
they prefer to welcome others.
I’ve been around school doors
so long, I believe I can hear that 
thing screeching as the shooter 
yanked it back, the big rock 
the teacher had used to prop it 
against the grass, to one side.
And like that—nowhere to hide.

Alejandro Escudé published his first full-length collection of poems My Earthbound Eye in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches high school English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.