Patti Masterman

Fantasy And Reality Of The Child - Poem by Patti Masterman

I was one of those childhood clock watchers
On school days, and I followed the clock's hands
Like stations of the cross; knew every hidden crevice
That a hand might slip into, to lengthen an afternoon's dudgeon.
After the flag salute and the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner,
You knew the clock owned your being for the duration.

Before lunch or after, I was master at telling fortunes
Based upon time of day. And could forecast
How the minutes could stretch out nearly to infinity's breaking point,
In the period just after lunch; as the long, well ordered afternoon
Started to sag, like a broken down sofa on a porch.

A full stomach and gloating midday sun,
Lack of air conditioning made you stick to your desk,
Secret rivulets of sweat running around under clothing,
While your lunch did a slow, resentful roll of its own,
From discomfort's lassitude, or stodgy blood's rancor,
At having to confine itself entirely beneath a desk.

The clock moved in slow-mo now, as if to ridicule the slow steaming
Of human flesh, in the smooth-painted concrete block cauldera of room,
The mind screaming all the while of the desperate need
To escape, in some victorious comic-book-fantasy style; but of course
Escaping and comic books were all a part of what was forbidden here.
It was as if the adults knew all the hidden routes to freedom in advance,
And knowingly, sadistically thwarted every one.

If only we could secrete cobwebs from our palms,
Throwing a line out to the door, then we'd open it and escape,
While the teacher's mouth still was forming into a large circle of surprise.
Or, shrinking ourselves down, we'd clatter and hunch down into the open mouth
Of the metal desk, where the crayons and the pencil box sat in the gloom;
Prehistoric boulders, to hide us from the eyes of the law.

I never realized that if I were captive, the teachers themselves
Must have been sold into soulless slavery and incongruous poverty.
Strange how the child world is egocentrically fastened
Upon personal suffering or individual authentication.
The world we inhabit then just seems so full of us,
There's no room left for scaling any hills inside anothers mind.

Dwelling upon passing seconds made life seem a sad joke;
It was dangerous to stare for too long at those languidly sweeping hands,
Or to imagine how many journeys around they must make
To gain the opening of freedom's doors.

Yet release came again every day, however torturous
The tedious minutes might be dragging, up to its arrival.
Even now sometimes I feel a thrill, seeing it is already a quarter of three,
Or five minutes past; in some latent, never-aging past of mine,
I am about to gain my personal freedom yet again.

Anyway, a kind of freedom; though perhaps there has been a reversal,
And it is now a sort of unending captivity, that I only celebrate in ignorance.
I'm sure even the Teachers still imagined themselves free,
And just occasionally tied to the clock, by duties tiresome hours.

Or perhaps reality really lasted until exactly 3: 15,
And the underpinning fantasy only began in earnest, afterwards?

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Poem Submitted: Saturday, April 30, 2011

Poem Edited: Saturday, June 4, 2011

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