Where are the evil broomstick and the narrow pointed hat
that trembling you can from to the warm wide city?
Those gossipy claws and the bigoted beady eyes
tried to throttle you here; in the nick of time
you tricked them by the clicking outbound train …!
Now cold from the city you come: the witch has died.
Or was she never alive? Broomstick and brimstone have dis
what could you ever have feared from this motherly lap,
the nodding cap, and milk-soft eyes under the mild sun?
Why did you even think of running away?
Here where no one locks the door at night,
you need no clock or calendar. Scientist, take note;
the parallel lines have met; infinity,
that glistering slippery eel, is trapped within the net
of Main Street, heavy dinner, family photographs.
You do not criticise. Deliberately blind
to the chromium drug store and all the tall signs of war;
everything is level with before. The Supermarket lies,
only the Latin Prize is real, and will your long pants fit
or be laughed at as they stammer through the dance?
When you left, you knew the town was done for now.
How could it carry on without your bookstrap,
private nook in the tree, and your spy-code look
for the freckled redheaded boy who lived next door?
Your teacher would weep, never teach another class …
… she reads along in the same bee-droning tone.
Shakespeare is happy to be deaf and dead.
Surely that wooden desk still holds inside
your molding candy crumbs, your paper aeroplane;
even the blackboard is there, waiting on your chalky word!
What are you going to write, white and firm,
on that mammoth world of slate? Eternal 2 and 2:
now you are grown, make known the magic sum of Fate.
Begin! the blackboard urges. Your turn, you must take your turn!
I have come back to tell you, I have come to say
–I have returned, that is you beg for teacher’s help.
She throws away the prompting book and holds
the smarting ruler steady. Well, ruler is ready to crack,
what have you learned? The chalk burns in your hand;
the fire does not warm, you cannot write a word.
The sum, the magic sum! Flame flickers out,
dies down to dumbest ash, gray so gray. Cold so cold.
And old so very old. … Old as that crone
who snatched at the little boy and could not catch him then.
Now he is caught. So much you have been taught.
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