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By Daniel Blokh

Coming home on the last school day of my 2016-17 year, all I wanted to do was sleep, lie in bed, and rewatch every TV show I had ever gotten joy from. I’m an extrovert and normally very social, but I didn’t want to see or interact with anyone. I had just gone through one of the most stressful exam weeks of my life, which came at the end of one of an emotionally exhausting month. The main thing that drove me to keep going was thinking about being able to come home on the last day of school and do absolutely nothing for as long as I wanted.

As usual with these things, they don’t go as planned. I spent that day sleeping, and when I woke up the next morning at 6am as I did on school days, I didn’t know what to do. My parents were both at work, so I couldn’t talk to them. I asked some friends if they wanted to meet up, but some were out of state, and the rest wanted to stay home and relax.

I tried to follow their example. I watched TV for a while, but I kept feeling like I was being unproductive and wasting time. My brain couldn’t switch. All I wanted was to do nothing—I had looked forward to that opportunity all year—but after months of forcing myself to be more productive, that was surprisingly hard to do. I kept wanting to be busy with something, but finding nothing to be busy with.

That was a while back, and I’ve had a good summer break. I’ve managed to relax (more), watched good movies, hung out with friends, and travelled, all things that are hard to do in the daily hustle and bustle of the school year. But when I do these enjoyable things, I feel a bit of guilt. It’s like, “I’m so stressed during the school year. With all the free time I have right now, shouldn’t I be spending this time doing something to make the school year less stressful?” It feels absurd to me that students spend 9 months of the year rushing from class to class and stressing out because of a lack of time to do everything they want, and then get 3 months of doing absolutely nothing. Not that I’m asking for summer reading—I just think there could be a way to spread the work out more evenly. Studies show that “on average, American children lose the equivalent of about one month of instruction over summer vacation”. There’s so many times throughout the school year that I find myself overwhelmed with responsibilities, wishing for just a few days off to catch up. And apparently, during the three-month vacation that I wait for the entire year, I’m actually losing progress in school? It makes no sense to me. Multiple shorter breaks, like many countries outside the US have, would be far more helpful.

I am still painfully dreading the last day of summer, when I will have to pack up all my books and folders, prepare to wake up at sunrise the next day, and brace myself for another school year. As the days go on and the work piles up, the energy I have built up during the inertia imposed by summer will start to fade. I will feel miserable. There will be breaks, though few and far between, and they will be over quickly. And I will look forward through it all, waiting for those 3 months when I can lie around in bed, forgetting school material, bored out of my mind, doing—more or less—absolutely nothing.

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This month’s poem is ‘Student in Summer’, a piece a wrote about the feeling of suddenly losing structure and gaining so much possibility when summer begins, and how that rigid routine of school never fully disappears from a student’s mind.

Student in Summer

you can put in headphones/ you can burn your schedules/ you can fall asleep outside/ you can let time die like a dog on your porch/ you can let it stretch out lazily and boundlessly/ you can listen to cars pass outside the window/ you can be a buddhist/ you can go to ball games/ you can leave the country/ you can walk for hours/ you can see a friend/ you don’t have to/ you can have anything/ the world/ but you’ll still hear a bell in the cool breeze by your ears/ you’ll still wonder if it’s the short one signalling the start of class/ or the long one making your stomach heavy/ that harbinger telling you/ run downstairs/ hurry/ lunch is on the way

Daniel Blokh is a 15-year-old writer living in Birmingham, Alabama. He is the author of the memoir In Migration (BAM! Publishing 2016) and the micro-chapbook The Wading Room (Origami Poems Project 2016). His poetry chapbook, Grimmening, is forthcoming from Diode Editions in 2018. His work has been recognized by the Scholastic Art and Writing awards and the Foyle Young Poet awards, and has appeared in DIALOGIST, Gigantic Sequins, Forage Poetry, Avis Magazine, Thin Air Magazine, Cicada Magazine, and more.