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By Sara Kandler

I shift the leather rolling bag

to my other arm before hoisting it up the stairs

to the teacher’s room

My fifty-something colleague passes

lowers her chin

while raising her darkened eyebrows

above her glasses

serious green eyes knowing

Somehow they all know why I missed last week

And some know why I’m back so soon

To never miss a beat

and not submit to doom

the self-blame

the shame

the I knew I shouldn’t have been so stressed

or the now I’m becoming so insane

To say I beat it with a smile

and a goody bag of rouge sticks

feels like a giant hokey pink thumbs up

No — my wing is clipped and

I’m not singing

The whirring wheels of my rolling bag

announce my arrival and

I roll with the punches

down every hallway

Wishing for my very own punching bag

Not recognizing myself

Who used to feel like one of the kids

Now seeing me in their eyes

Another fifty-something

Shifting the weight to her stronger side

And taking a breath

Before taking the stairs.

Good to see you, she says.

Thanks. It’s good to be back.

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