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September 2015, vol 11 no 3

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Els van Leeuwen


The new kid at the preschool, he's very physical. He pushes, shouts, leans and pulls all day. I find him at the sink, clenching and wringing, clenching and wringing, with no soap and his jaw set tight. He takes things from hands and, smiling, goes to hide them. Mostly what he loves is music time, and eating. I'm fishing around for the right jargon so I can talk about it with my colleague. I'm trying to spend more time with him so I can work him out. On his second day he takes a shine to a pale, quiet girl: the little one, who checks with me before she makes a choice, the one who knows all the rules and sits polite. I stop him again and again, leaning in to her, pressing on her, kissing her, holding both her arms tightly and peering close into her face as she cries and squirms in silence.

I'm triggered back into something I talk of calmly, but now there are tears. I know, suddenly, that the pretty teacher in the French preschool saw it all. She knew I had no shared word for 'stop'. I was alone in a world of strange sounds of non-sense. She was always remote, always standing.

I crouch down next to the little girl. Listen, I say, you need to find your voice. In here, you have a strong voice. If you don't like it, you need to tell him, tell him STOP! I don't like it.

wind on the pane
a chain of paper dolls
holding hands

Note: haiku first published in Modern Haiku 46.2.