Poem

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

calling

                    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 Saturday Paper’s poet laureate, and the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.