Ode to Mrs. Hutchinson,

A Third Grade Teacher

by Sandy Hiortdahl


Like an ox, she stared me down, a slow blink, and me there

Trapped in her class, at the desk, eight years old. 

I want that box of cowboy stamps and ink

To create a page of wild west stories: 

cactus dot the title line, a cowboy

rides the margin, chasing two calves toward

the middle loose-leaf binder hole.

I’m eight-year-old eager for the May sun,

the internal-organ colored kickball

pitched hard and wafting down a dusty lane--

Best kicker in the 3rd grade, I’m a legend.

Just the week before Mrs. Hutchinson had me there,

I kicked so hard my fake leg

Flew over the pitcher’s head to second base

While the ball flew into far left, a home run, a beauty

But I stood one-legged, stork-like, stunned

Until Jerry Blickstein yelled “Ghost runner!”

and red-haired Carrie sprinted by.

After the point, they brought my leg,



And still this woman stared down her glasses at me

Until I faced the paper once again,

One hundred cursive C’s that lacked

The leading stroke (again).

Someone grabbed my box of stamps. 

The bell trilled and I put the pencil to a ‘C’

Even as my kickball team

Hurried into the bright hotness.

I glanced up.

“Go,” she said,

without a smile.

Sandy Hiortdahl lives with her best friend Kismo Blue, an Australian Cattle Dog, in East Tennessee. She’s a recipient of the Sophie Kerr Prize and has an M.F.A. from George Mason and a Ph.D. from The Catholic University of America. She teaches at Northeast State Community College.   Her work has appeared or is forthcoming this year in Punchnel’s and Barely South Review, among others. More may be found on her website:    She’s on Twitter: @hiortdahl

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