by Emylee Ballo
For the first time, I saw someone
in two places at once.
His elementary legs four yards ahead of his mind
running away from the bullying stick-throwers
his brain longed to name friends.
The little boy didn’t resemble the others—
dirtier than the path he ran on
smaller than the single-portion meal he didn’t receive
But more joyful than the songs he clapped to
in the third-world classroom.
I didn’t know his name
but to him, I was “Teacher.”
I only wanted to help aide his time left on earth—
Just have him sit on the side a spare moment
and if he waited with his water
he would receive a double portion.
His straightened thumb and head nod understood
what the language barrier couldn’t.
I was preparing a plate for him
solemnly grateful to be the one responsible
to fill his over-empty stomach.
But he was going to be satisfied.
His excitement curiously distracted him
after watching the others run and play.
His soul hungered for companionship over his bowl of rice
and with God-given energy, ran for their embrace—
but was only met with their greeting
of hurled rocks and twigs.
With a loving rush, I chased after the little Swahili boy
as if he were mine.
As though he were me.
They would stop hurting him, I thought,
if I could just get closer.
They wouldn’t hurt Teacher.
I watched his shining smile shrink
and trembling eyes lead his wobbling legs
out from their playground, onto the dusty road
escaping into a more tragic land.
He darted away from the violence—
The little child raced forward and didn’t look left or right;
he hadn’t learned that yet.
The man in the truck, just as the boy,
didn’t watch both sides of the road
but numbly accelerated, unaware.
A second passed before I heard the evil screech
bellow from the metal mouth
foaming with black exhaust
And watched it separate Little Swahili’s innocent life—
one that longed to give everything of the nothing he had.
The silence echoed as I did what he couldn’t—
Inhaling in quivers and puffing out silent whimpers
my wet cheeks faced his drying blood.
I only wanted to ease his time on earth—
Not watch it end.
For the first time, the little Swahili boy saw himself
in two places at once—
broken and messy on the road now dirtier than he
but fixed and fresh in His arms, ascending home.
The boy looked down to wave at Teacher, friends, school—
they were watching his half and half lie still on the road
but should have instead been seeing him fly.