You wake up on the fourth floor
to the garbled coo of some window-shopping pigeons,
dress quickly, pick at breakfast,
clamber down the dark stairwell with ears closed.
Today, no school. A bus trip out of the city
Your protective cool could crack with the excitement.
Same for your classmates.
The habitually unimpressed are most at risk.
Abandoned tenements, boarded-up stores, vacant lots,
give way to farms and forests.
You cross a river that’s rushing to be somewhere,
spot a deer at the side of a road.
The bus parks by a lake.
You file out of the vehicle
as calm as the waters before you.
But the air outside feels strange, empty,
the underfoot not as secure as cracked cement.
Looking up, you see canopy, not brick and steel.
It’s not all play of course.
The teachers insist you all must learn something.
Like the shallow water ecosystem.
Or the names of everything around you.
And why things are the way they are.
Not something you like to think about.
The smart kids stay close to their elders,
want to be where the knowledge is.
The usual disrupters are quitter than normal,
gravitate to the edge of the activity, whisper.
You’re somewhere in the middle,
in awe of the greenery but afraid of seeming weak.
And, even with your friends nearby, it seems so spacious,
like you could get lost just standing where you are.
John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Soundings East, Dalhousie Review and Qwerty with work upcoming in West Trade Review, Willard and Maple and Connecticut River Review.