A little schoolhouse in ruins.
We’re lunching on the wooden steps
Ghosts murmur in the boarded dark
behind us. The radiance
of early September blazes
with fields of aster and goldenrod.
We’ve just visited a graveyard
where nearly famous people lie
as flat as everyone else does:
headstones slightly more serious
and neatly fenced except where
a tree fell and cracked the ironwork.
The old chaos remains although
that little plot lingers in the eye
and berries at the edge of pastures
ripen with no one to pick them
except a few spontaneous birds.
No Trespassing signs plaster
the schoolhouse. Otherwise
we might risk entering to face
the children grown old and dead
in the dust of chalk and litter
of pages torn from textbooks
published before the Japanese
bombed Pearl Harbor. Maybe drenched
in that daylight dark I’d recall
the whole of my algebra,
while you would orate by rote
the history of California
from Father Serra through Stanford
and Ames of the Union Pacific.
A summer of drought has left us
giddy with arid glare. We munch
deviled eggs and lobster rolls
from the market down the highway
and stare at the weedy gravel drive
and wonder how long this schoolhouse
has stood abandoned and whether
surviving graduates recall it
with affection or disgust. I fear
that police will roust us, but you
with your fawn-like innocence
enjoy the undertone of ghost
at our backs, and, post-graveyard,
declare the living moment good,
leaving a few crumbs for birds.