A Childhood Poem

Today, I’m sharing a poem about first grade and my teacher, Miss Moon. The good news is that I survived.

Ancient History

In the first grade
at Ellis Brett School,
I want to ask Miss Moon,
my teacher, Are you older
than God?

Thin, pale, bent as a willow,
attic-musty white hair
pulled into an angry bun,
she hovers unsmiling
like a sulky cloud
over reading, writing and arithmetic.

Gray, gauzy dress hangs
on her board-flat body,
creakier than the floor
of the school, erected in 1873.

Her whisper-thin voice floats
over my left shoulder,
bounces off the blackboard.
I struggle to catch words,
sometimes only murmurs.

Freckled hand clutches a ruler
to stand against our backs.
Posture, posture,
while we sit rod straight
on hard wooden chairs
attached to scarred ancient desks,
bolted to the floor.

At recess, she lingers
at the playground’s edge—
specter on moon valley
of rocks and dirt
where we risk scraped knees,
chasing each other
in a game of tag.

When the bell rings,
I join the jostle
herded by her command
into a pencil-straight, silent line,
wondering what new perils are waiting.

5 Replies to “A Childhood Poem”

  1. Cool. I like it. My first grade teacher was so strict that she had to speak to my mother about my behavior! I had loved my kindergarten teacher. I think my first grade teacher thought I had blossomed a little too much! I found a report card from the end of the first grade and it said I was doing much better now. I guess I learned to keep my mouth shut. Well, I guess I got it back open, and I got along well with my second grade teacher. Love, Katie

    Sent from my iPad



  2. What a beautiful description of the ghost-like wisp of a woman working her way to oblivion, doing her job. One wonders if her life had any joy. She seems to have no substance, merely a presence—and a tentative one at that. You were so clear in your observation of her as an ancient, nearly unreal entity.

    How many teachers lived out lives like this in our childhood? We learned more than academics from them, it seems, as we look back into those rooms from the distance of time. Did they put in year after year from devotion? Nothing else to occupy a deadly boring life? Fear of being alone? We will never know the truth.

    Thank you for recalling a shared memory that is quite familiar.



  3. Watched video of both…great reading . Good old Ellis Brett and 1st grade memories! BTW highly recommend “Harriet”. (Did also see “Judy” [how’s that for the Mechaber sisters in lights!] quite depressing (cause her life was) and not as powerful.

    Sent from my iPad



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