The boy thought, for the first time coming across the skeleton
Hanging by a cord inside its coffin-like case in Science Lab,
At repose merely because no passing child touched it slightly or with force,
“But I am still too young to have to see such things”

The color and surface of its segments said it was real;
There had been flesh on the bones. No further did he speculate.
For weeks he did not listen to his previously enjoyed ’78 record,
Saint-Saëns’ hallucinatory “Danse Macabre”

So this was middle education! Never had he imagined a teacher as old
As Algebra’s Miss Emma Finch straight-backed behind her orderly desk,
Blinking like a surprised barn owl when students entered in a rush,
Her graying hair pulled strictly back into a painful-looking bun

On Wednesday Mr. Probble announced how in one darkened room
They would view an Educational Research Products, Inc. film; then
“Ur-peee!” the older male children catcalled during a grainy black-and-white
Countdown of numbers on a dial and also when lackluster adults

Paid to impersonate Franklin, Adams, and Jefferson in haphazard wigs
Stepped up to sign the Declaration Of Independence
With or without any flourish. A ten-question quiz would follow, but
Many children experimented with how long their eyelids could stay shut

Then – Friday, happening to walk down an unfamiliar hallway after 3:15,
Through a door open to the auditorium stage he saw slender red-haired James Jolly
In starched short-sleeved shirt at a large piano playing Chopin’s “Polonaise In A-Flat”
Loudly, resolutely practicing the moves over and over like a boy quarterback.

Jonathan Bracker is published in The New Yorker, Poetry Northwest, Writer’s Digest, and others. Concerning Poetry: Poems About Poetry (2018). Editor of Bright Cages: The Selected Poems Of Christopher Morley (1965), co-author with Mark Wallach of Christopher Morley (1976), and editor of A Little Patch Of Shepherd’s-Thyme: Prose Passages Of Thomas Hardy Arranged As Verse (2013).