Monday, February 13, 2012

The Cloakroom on Valentine's Day (a poem)

Main Street Elementary School, which I attended in the 1950s. It no longer exists.
I wrote this poem back in the 1970s. It's set in the 1950s. It is, I suspect, based on an invented memory—a memory that, now that I've written about it, seems more real and vivid to me than things that no doubt actually happened in the fourth grade at Main Street Elementary School in Farmingdale, NY, where I grew up. I can't remember now if I've ever published this poem anywhere. It seems appropriate for this week's holiday. I don't know why we used the word "cloakroom," which seems so formal, for the place in the back of the class where we hung our coats and left our galoshes.

The Cloakroom on Valentine’s Day

Remember how,
not long before the time for going home,
we sneaked into the room of coats and shadows
which had beckoned from the back like a cave
since morning
when we turned, whenever we turned,
from our lessons?
Remember how the bell had rung a fire drill
all day, how Teacher told us
to ignore it? And we did,
though it sang and sang like a burn?
(I will not talk.
I will not talk.
A hundred times, a thousand times,
written in our heads.)
How in the noise when Teacher turned
we dipped and darted for the door
like swallows?
Remember being scared to laugh,
afraid that Teacher’s vast shadow
would grow in the doorway,
lit from behind by giggles?
How we shut the door?
And how we played at hiding in the dark
in the cloth of jackets, caps, and scarves?
How with a sudden Hey! we knew
that all the pockets grew with red,
unopened, heart-shaped envelopes and boxes,
and we stood breathless for a second,
hardly daring think the sweets inside?
How (just about to open one)
the door flew wide
and all the light and children,
come for their coats and candy,
filled the secret place and our wide eyes?
But they were blushed too much to notice us?
How we emerged, unchanged,
except for having sensed each other
in the red dark?

1 comment:

  1. You do know how to blog indeed. From another grey ghost who who came out of a closet.