I love most the progression: excitement, trepidation, near panic, joy, contentment, fashion choice dissection. Later, in the post-school photo: exuberance hurriedly filling a hole left by weeks of anticipation and anxiety.
I don’t remember the crush of a schoolyard entrance. I remember Mrs. Calvin’s pre-fab skirt and top outfit patterned with fish, a sunny spot on the rug, the confusing discovery that some kids were already reading.
It seems unfair: to send the kids inside while that hard blue sky waits and no one is on the swings. But maybe September is for parents. We can read the paper in the sun and pretend for a minute we are a dreamy students skipping class.
Remembering a lyrical ode to early September days I just googled “poem Auden September.” It’s not like that at all. But I feel close to the poem, even if I forgot the details. We shared a vulnerable time after 9/11. And I guess it came to be because it’s now as September-ish as fair high-pressure skies and seed pods about ready to burst.
The poem does–with its gray talk of the State–tie into the start of school. I fret about how my son might be changed in by all-day kindergarten in a NYC public school with the ogre of high stakes testing, the lack of outside time, the missed chimerical nature walks we’d be having-–i.e., the crushing of his tender soul.
I try to remember that I also went to school and came out as dreamy as ever.
The last stanza of “September 1, 1939,” by W. H. Auden:
Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.
Here’s to a soul-broadening, wonder-blossoming year of school.
- My mom might tell me this is yet another case of making up my own mythology. My husband calls it exaggerating. To me, it’s a better form of truth. Supposedly once I went missing from school. Maybe I walked to school and never made it, maybe I wandered out the front door. I was found calmly picking dandelions in the front lawn. ↩
- For more on this poem, later renounced by Auden as “dishonest,” and the 9/11 attention it received check out this piece. ↩