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Image by Barry Zhou

Closing Up

The hallways I’ve insisted are too loud have fallen quiet today
and with the windows open
and the fan running
the classroom almost doesn’t smell of adolescents

Today I hit the reset button
strip the walls bare
and turn this place I have made to look like home
into something sterile again.

I stack the chairs and recall the best and worst moments
the ones that stick after all the others have melted together
into a notion of how the year went, or didn’t
compared to all the others

Today their voices do not echo on the playground
I stumble across the things they’ve left behind
and try to decide what do do with them

Collecting the wayward pencils from each corner
I relive the unexpected moments
the thank you I heard from the last one I’d expect
The time another held out their arms asking for a hug
and I had to say, I’m sorry
The activities we couldn’t do this year
the ones that took their place

It is the day I will notice how much gum is stuck to the underside of the furniture
and find the notes they have written to each other on the table top
I will peel off stickers
fill the desk drawers with school supplies
and set the class frogs free beside the stream

Today I will clean the fingerprints and nose prints from the aquarium glass
and wonder how they got a footprint on the ceiling tile
I will stack the chair that he fell out of every day
straighten the table on which her tears fell
erase the board where they wrote,
1 ½ school days til vacation
Have a great summer
and Bye-bye, Losers!

It is at the same time a celebration of summer’s onset
and a kind of mourning
for the faces of students I will not see again
and the ones who will come back in the fall
older and taller and different

This is the day to see the colleagues
from the other corners of the building
I have hardly seen or spoken to them since September
but today we exchange plans for the summer months
wish each other well
and say farewell to those who won’t be back
when the children return

After enough years of repeating this day
it has become familiar, expected
both welcome and dreaded
different each time, but routine
A ritual as solemn as folding a flag
or holding a rosary tight between fingers

As often as I have wished for this day to come sooner
there is a quiet sadness the last time the light is turned off
and the door is pulled shut
A silent pause I can not help but fill with some sound
each time a whispered blessing
that only the empty room will ever hear

Close Talker

The close talker takes a shuffle forward
every time I take a small step back.
The same space I perceive
to be just too short
of a comfortable buffer
my friend perceives to be a cavernous expanse,
one to be remedied.
He crowds closer, oblivious,
keeps talking about innocuous somethings.
I can no longer hear him
over the din of his proximity.
This is, for neither of us,
a moment of intimacy.
It is casual conversation, ruined
by the plosive puff of breath on face
the extra strain of narrowing eyes
struggling to focus
drowned out by the inner dialogue,
whether to risk being hurtful
to interrupt him
to escape.

Christopher Clauss (he/him) is an introvert, Ravenclaw, father, poet, photographer, and middle school science teacher in rural New Hampshire.  His mother believes his poetry is “just wonderful.” Both of his daughters declare that he is the “best daddy they have,” and his pre-teen science students rave that he is “Fine, I guess.  Whatever.


  1. Anonymous

    Closing up has to be one of the most beautiful, poignant poems I’ve read.just lovely

  2. Paul

    Amazeballs. As a fellow middle school science teacher for decades, this strikes not just close to home, but right at home as my science classroom is indeed my second home and I can completely relate, minus the shoe print on the ceiling (18 ft high ceilings thankfully).


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