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.