LINES WRITTEN THE
DAY AFTER ’S
GRADUATION, VIRGINIA MAY 30, 1984
The gym is empty now--
Graduation was last night.
The polished floor is lightly scuffed
By the shoes of girls in long white dresses:
The rented chairs are stacked against the wall,
And beside them yesterday’s magnolias and
My orange extension cord
And the discarded programs,
Where you said they’d be.
Last night I shared my daughter’s joy
With the calmness of a minister at a wedding,
Or a funeral:
A school man on a working day.
But something has come to me today,
Walking the halls,
Picking up after graduation:
Here is where she stood last night to give her speech,
And here is where she sat laying out the newspaper,
And here her desk for calculus or English,
Or where she tried out for cheerleader:
And here are all the places of the part of her life
We thought was ours
But is no more.
An empty school, the day after graduation,
In the cool and eerie light of the sun’s eclipse--
They say this will not happen again
For thirty years or so:
I wonder if I shall see it.
The men are moving the rented organ now,
And I suppose that if I leave the flowers where they are today
They will still be there in September,
Dried, brittle, incongruous against the opening of school.
It has dawned on me thorough this day’s strange, dream-like light
That I have indeed lived to see her coming forth:
My tears belong to ritual,
As you said they would.
It has dawned on me through this day’s strange, dream-like light
doesn’t go to school here
The men carrying away the rented chairs
Disrupt the practice of the cheerleaders:
My younger daughter squints in the now-bright sun of noontime
And plans with friends for other days.
- Robert H. Demaree Jr., 2012
Robert retired in 2001 after 42 years as a teacher and administrator in schools in the
U.S. He has family
ties to , North
Carolina and Pennsylvania ; thus he hopes that his interest in what Donald
Hall calls “a pleasure of place” does not preclude a look at a larger