You Wore Hotpants

il_570xN.156101663Hip-huggers as I recall
with a peace sign
belt buckle riding low.
So altogether different
from the other sixth grade teachers
in their cardigans and tweed.

You were radiant in paisley,
colossal hoops swinging
from your earlobes,
calves planted like tanned
warriors in white vinyl boots.

Even your name signaled
change in the air.

Call me Ms. Petker
you announced to the class.
Mizzz Petker.
Not Mrs, not Miss.

Dear, splendid Ms. Petker:
for all I know the principal,
cowed by your greatness,
showed you the door come June.

For all I know Mister Petker
was a dictatorial oaf in his boxers
demanding another beer.

No matter.

You were a herald,
a seer, a torchbearer.
You taught us the active voice,
the topography of California
and R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I waited my turn,
polite like I’d been taught,
then raised my hand.

You held my trembling fingers
and curled them
in the shape of a fist.

Sock it to me, Ms. Petker.
Sock it to me.
Sock it to me forever.

© Julie Pennington-Russell