March 27, 2023

Substitute Teacher

by Susana H. Case


I was nineteen in Ohio.
Mornings, the phone rang with my assignment.
I’d run down the hill to catch the bus—

a different school most mornings—
clutching a bag of M&M’s for lunch.
Principals said, just keep the students quiet.

Poor Maurice—same size as me,
but mentally a six-year-old—all deficits
and constant movement,

master of the intrusive touch.
Maurice pleaded, he had to use the bathroom.
I said no.

He peed all over himself.
The class finished the day pointing
and laughing. He sat there in the wet and cried.

I cried too. I went home, still crying.
Next morning, I ran back down the hill, headed
for another school, searching for the right bus.


Susana H. Case has authored eight books of poetry, most recently The Damage Done, Broadstone Books, 2022. Dead Shark on the N Train, Broadstone Books, 2020 won a Pinnacle Book Award for Best Poetry Book, a NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite, and was a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award. The first of her five chapbooks, The Scottish Café, Slapering Hol Press, was re-released in a dual-language English-Polish version, Kawiarnia Szkocka by Opole University Press. She co-edited, with Margo Taft Stever, the anthology I Wanna Be Loved by You: Poems on Marilyn Monroe, Milk and Cake Press, 2022. Case worked several decades as a university professor and program coordinator in New York City and currently is a co-editor of Slapering Hol Press.