Miss Jenkins

by Julia Copus

More and more, lately, when absence thickened the air
at the schoolgates, in the street, first thing on waking,
she’d think of her former calling, the way it had defined her.
In the dim, sugar-paper blur of the light,
while boiling the kettle or kneeling over weeds,
many times at dusk now (the streetlights coming on)
she’d feel herself alive, transported
once again to the bright, tall-windowed classroom,
chalky-fingered, cherished by her peers, and walking –
that brisk and rhythmic pace she adopted, all her working days.
Even in sleep, her breath would rise and fall with
the sharp pat pat of the children’s feet approaching and
she’d sense – in her blood – like a counterpoint beneath it,
the slap of books upon each child-size table
whenever she set up class for their arrival.

Whenever she set up class for their arrival
– the slap of books upon each child-size table –
she’d sense in her blood, like a counterpoint beneath it,
the sharp pat pat of the children’s feet approaching and
even in sleep her breath would rise and fall with
that brisk and rhythmic pace she adopted, all her working days.
Chalky-fingered, cherished by her peers, and walking
once again to the bright, tall-windowed classroom,
she’d feel herself alive; transported.
Many times at dusk now (the streetlights coming on),
while boiling the kettle or kneeling over weeds,
in the dim, sugar-paper blur of the light,
she’d think of her former calling, the way it had defined her,
at the schoolgates, in the street, first thing on waking –
more and more, lately, when absence thickened the air.