Poem: Returning to School, To Town

Returning to School, To Town
Across the way, a new pod of tents
behind the field house.
And a gaggle of orange traffic cones.
Set out by Buildings and Grounds
to direct the returning students
where to go, where to line-up
to be tested without their parents.
Downtown, all summer, workers,
masked, have been rebuilding
the crumbling bridge, graveling
the new railroad tracks.
Not as bad as everyone expected
having to drive around for awhile,
walk a different path.
To take you where you’re going.
Of course things can’t be the same
as they were. Russ Reilly,
our football announcer, used to say
“a  gaggle of flags” when he saw
all those penalty flags adorning
the field. Which won’t be happening
this fall, anytime soon.
The players sitting in their locker rooms.
Isn’t it enough for awhile
to see each other from across the way?
To wave, to welcome each other back.
As if this were the start of the semester
last fall. Or today when we’re doing everything
humanly possible no one’s read
in a text book or tested in an afternoon
laboratory yet. Each of us trying
to figure out what’s best.
To stay at home? To return here?
To imagine how that horse
was half-horse, half man.
How, we’re taught, Pegasus
blossomed his wings.
How long it will take to see
the face of a new roommate?
Decide what’s safe or not?
Wait for a test result.
A grade on an essay
to write home about.
At the same time feeling
the urge to sleep
with a stranger.
Invite everyone within
shouting distance

to stop in for a beer.
Risk it. Take the chance
of a lifetime. Being
the first class, after
the all clear, to walk
downtown and cross
over the new bridge.
As if this were graduation.
And Russ was announcing it.
From his perch high
above the field.
And those flags really were
a gaggle of geese
picking through corn
in this circumstance.
          — Gary Margolis, Cornwall

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