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Within This Landscape, I Find You Anna Moss When I first love you, it is summer. There must be a cricket song for every square in the mesh of the screen window. You make me feel sexy. I don't use my imagination and the feeling lingers longer than morning . The land is stretched flat and burned tired by the sun. Mississippi is a long way from my Michigan home and the distance relieves me. The change in the land leaves me exposed and feeling somehow new, as ifthe shift from cornfields and sloping pastures to cotton fields and naked flatness finds its way inside me. q I was sent to Tunica, Mississippi by a domestic Peace Corps program,Teach For America. I applied to the program knowing nearly nothing about it. What I did know was that it would relocate me far from home and the difficulties of my parents' divorce. At the same time, it would give me a social servicejob to be proud of. I feel like a cheater when you teU me that as soon as you heard about the program and its efforts to aUeviate the desperate teacher shortages in resource-needy schools, you knew it was for you. Now that I am here, teaching in a room where before there was, perhaps, a janitor starting a video but certainly nothing more, I can see clearly the reasons I should have had for applying to this program. As Emergency Certified Special Education Teachers, we're filling in where otherwise there would be no teacher at aU. When you ask me why I decided to join the program, I lie and speak with the insight I didn't have until I got here. I want you to Uke me. I met Laura, the third Special Education teacher at Tunica Junior High, before I met you. I had an "interview" two weeks before school started, but it reaUy turned out to be a chance for the principal to teU me what subjects I would teach. Laura waited outside the school office and then took me on 105 106Fourth Genre a tour ofTunica. She said this was her third year in Tunica and she wanted to help me get my feet on the ground before the first day of school. She drove me through aU the subs our students live in. We started at Sugar Ditch AUey "got its name from the open sewage that ran through it up until the mid-'80s," and ended with White Oak, "This one's rough. We'U just drive along the edge of the neighborhood." Along the way she showed me the cracked asphalt court the boys play basketbaU on and the places her students Uve. She pointed out the different shacks with dangerously sloping roofs, rotting wood, gaps where waU corners should meet, and missing front doors. She caUed her students honey, sweety, sugar, my babies. "You know, it's best ifyou don't drive through any ofthe subs alone until you've been here several weeks and people recognize you as a teacher. Even then," she continued,"it's always safer to take a student along." I immediately felt Uke Laura was a mother figure. Partly since she's years older and partly because she is so wise in the ways ofTunica. I asked her why she joined Teach For America. "I was working in publishing in San Diego. Editing science journals. But then I read Jonathan Kozol's book, Savage Inequalities. I couldn't just do nothing. My mother thought I was crazy when I up and left. StiU does. Maybe I am." On the way back to the school she points out the nice homes in town where aU the white folks live. "You can see why nobody from Teach For America even tries to five in Tunica. There's no neighborhood for people like us. The blacks don't trust us since we're white and the whites don't trust us since we teach in the black school. That's why most of the Teach For America people who teach here Uve in Helena, Arkansas. There, it's possible to Uve at the edge ofwhere...


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pp. 105-119
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