The Custodian

 

The first grade sits and watches

as Miss Spencer and I fold the flag twelve times

into a blue and white-starred triangle.

 

It is the eleventh of November, a day

of mourning. Miss Spencer takes attendance,

chanting each name slowly. One by one each

child stands and answers “present.”

 

And then the dead are here, risen

in the magic of remembrance. They scratch

their initials in the wooden doorframes, chalk

hearts and strike zones on the red brick walls.

Their young selves scream for recognition.

 

But it is nineteen fifty-four: there are no songs

about Korea, no generals’ names on street signs,

no monuments commemorating battles, no bronze

plaques etched and bolted into town hall walls.

 

The afternoon passes, quickly.

The school day ends in single file. Outside,

I watch the first grade leave, the folded flag

forgotten in the ritual of dismissal.

 

Keeper of walls and doorframes and children—

a site of memory, a site of mourning—in me always

the initials and chalk marks stay.

 

Bob Meszaros taught English at Hamden High School in Hamden, Connecticut,for thirty-two years. He retired from high school teaching in June of 1999. During the 70s and 80s his poems appeared in a number of literary journals, such as En Passant and Voices International. In the year 2000 he began teaching part time at Quinnipiac University, and he began once again to submit his work for publication.His poems have subsequently appeared in The Connecticut Review, Main Street Rag, Tar River Poetry, Concho River Review, Northwind, Innisfree, and other literary journals.

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