Robert Tremmel




Buck Creek School, 1935



These students are being kept

after school tonight

for a word they have spoken

among themselves.


They will be here a long time,

long after dark, longer,

long after the moon sets

and something else takes its place


something, something they can’t quite

put their fingers on, something

without a name, cold, smooth

and slippery, impermanent


as the bright fragments they find

each morning scattered through the coal

and in the dust that always seems

to cover their hands and clothes.


This will happen only once,

but even so the teacher

will never forget.

Instead, she will grow sterner


more distant, her face more at home

with the crumbling wooden benches,

empty lamps, inkwells, mittens

unraveling near the stove


until finally she will rise,
                        move out from behind her desk,

the stiff leather of her shoes

cracking, splitting open


chards of bone forcing

themselves out, rattling

across the floor, turning

the color of her eyes


stone, root, ash

on the threshold


the door, dissolving

horizon, sky once more.