School bell

From home I can hear the school bell
It rings for six-hundred children
It rings for me as well
Marking out the working day
Measuring out the domestic duties

At five to nine
The children are like leaves blown by a sudden gust of wind
Driven from the busy playground to the teacher
Alone in the classroom
Ready for reading and writing

Just after nine
I’m at my desk checking
Emails, stories, letters
Log-ins, passwords, memories
There are phonecalls sometimes
But oftentimes it’s just the screen and me
Looking at each other
Alone in the study
Reading and writing

Playtime at eleven
The children rush from doorways and hallways
Into fresh air and onto fake grass
I step into the sunshine
Pull weeds out near the empty letter-box
Hang washing on the clothesline
Playlunch is Milo and fruit
And then back to the desk
As six-hundred children respond to the bell
Leaving behind laughter and jokes and school jumpers

At lunchtime I can hear the school PA
A message for Stella Stamatakis
A phonecall for Jamie Peters
A reminder for the Grade Sixes
I have a sandwich, wash breakfast dishes
Ponder the family’s evening meal

At three-thirty the final bell pings
It never chimes or tolls
It never actually rings
From its automated machine
Six-hundred children make their move
To playgrounds and parents
To playmates and siblings
To homes

I look at the screen
Enough of emails and stories
Of letters and log-ins
Of passwords and memories
Enough reading and writing
For today

It’s time to play
A record or a CD or the radio
A ride on the bike
A walk to the milk bar
A swim at the beach

Then I bring in the washing
I begin the cooking
There are no bells now
But time is ticking

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