0098 New Term At Evening Class - Poem by Michael Shepherd
Sit here, in the entrance hall which
they've cleaned to spotless in the vacation
and watch them arrive,
early, one by one;
that's much more fun to watch.
Some walk a little faster than they need
as if impelled by their decision
to make this time full of worth for them.
Some walk slowly, yet deliberately, with a relaxed quiet;
we guess they're teaching staff; while
the ones who seem in a controlled acceleration tonight
are probably on duty.
Some seem almost unrecognisable
from your memory of them last term;
something magnificent must have happened
in the vacation; you wonder - do they know?
Some walk slowly, as if they belonged here
before they arrived; they bring the purpose of the place
visibly to light, as if bringing it back to itself;
even, as we watch,
bring ourselves to ourselves; as if the school
has come to life before a word is said;
if this were an ancient temple,
(and why not?)
they would be in solemn, joyous procession towards
the stone or place that is the building's centre,
bearing in upraised hands
a gift of gratitude, with shining eyes...for
who can forget that Greek statue of the 'calf-bearer'
who walked this way, shining-eyed, to that temple; who walks
for as long as marble lasts?
But this is today; we watch them in their street clothes
on their way down to the cloakroom,
two brown leaves, damp between,
shed on the doormat.
And now, elevated by this passing show
so, knowing now humanity always this so beautiful,
I too go down to the cloakroom; where in the perfect mirror
I see a person whose face has softened;
and yet who's taller, with some almost unfamiliar authority which
I did not see when I last looked at me
in the steamy bathroom mirror back at home -
yes, this is a good place to be.
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