Maxine Beneba Clarke
Spring break

the bell rings at two thirty,

an hour too early:

playground a-teeming,

kids whooping with glee


mums all where’s-wallying

this way and that,

as dads dig in lost property

for this term’s stray hat


kids spill from demountables,

halls, ball courts and libraries:

all grass stains on white socks,

plaits, band-aids on knees


oh, and here come the teachers:

hoarse, terse, bags ’neath their eyes


                    have a good holidays!

(stiff gins in their smiles)


as car doors are slammed

and racks empty of bikes,

there hiss loud front-gate meltdowns

from tired prep tykes


working parents swap schedules:

                    wednesday, can you take them?

                    my boss is a nightmare,

                    i can’t get vacation


french toast on the first day,

in pyjamas till one,

netflix on the second


on the third:

                    i’m bored, mum!


                    can we have some friends over?


                    yeah, where are we going?

                    my mates all do fun things:

                    musicals, royal show-ing


ringing in grandparents,

aunties and friends,

as week one of the holidays

grinds to an end


but truly, it’s lovely

to have them at home:

minus wash-uniform

lunch-box rigmarole:


the laughter of children

as they laze, run and play

                    TAKE THAT BALL OUT THE BACK,

                    OR I’LL THROW IT AWAY!


                    back in my day,

                    we didn’t expect to be entertained

                    we just went to the park:

                    the whole neighbourhood played


                    don’t roll your eyes, son,

                    what i’m saying is true

                    you kids don’t know

                    how lucky you are to be you


liquefying bananas

black-oozing in schoolbags

                    i’m washing the uniforms,

                    pass that over to dad


forgotten reading folders,

dates never filled in;

excursion notes, smoothed out,

and tacked to the fridge


     first day back: bell’s at nine,

     not an hour too early


                    i love you, my darlings,

                    i’ll be back at three thirty

Maxine Beneba Clarke is the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.

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