Day 3: On Lines and On Turning Ten

This March I’m “slicing” a piece of my day every day in chronological order,11454297503_e27946e4ff_h sequentially. You have to know these words when you are ten.

After PE, my fifth graders line up on the playground to go to class. Glitter falls from the Besty Johnson backpack. Pokemon cards are collected and stashed. The Cavaliers baseball cap is positioned. Girls cluster in the front. Boys at the back sharing Takis.

I walk the line herding stragglers.

The line next to us, the other classroom, takes off. Shoulder to shoulder, two paces apart. A well-oiled machine. Straight, tight and silent.

My line starts out with good intentions. The first partnerships take-off side by side.
I watch them pass.
Two by two
a group of three,
a group of five, and another group of four,
BIG gap,
The singles
a lunch bag in one hand,
a water bottle in the other,
sweatshirts dragging.
Another gap,
then two dreamers who run to catch up.
Backpacks ground them
so they don’t float away.
Corralled in the hallway they stop.
The classroom that will contain them awaits.
When all have arrived, the jellyfish surges forward (or is it backward), stingers trailing.

Fifth graders strain at control and resist containment until they get worried then their younger selves appear. Being with ten is about living on unsteady ground. One never knows. Exciting and painful.

Billy Collins’ poem On Turning Ten captures the age. It’s a must-read for all who care for and about ten-year-olds.  I offer this for the Poetry Friday celebration of Collins’ March birthday. Find more posts celebrating Collins here at Heidi Mordhorst’s blog, My Juicy Little Universe.

On Turning Ten

By Billy Collins

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I could shine.
But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed.