Voluntary

The fourth year’s in the hall
sitting in gilded silence.

The Head is talking.
Uniform, behaviour
and lunchtime lateness.
A litany of regulation
for summer’s insolence.
They sit without disturbance,
absorbing the assault
upon their childhood’s anarchy.

Sunlight, escaping through
the curtains from the air outside,
kindles five faces in the front row.
They shine like brass,
expressionless as wishes.

A trumpeter practises. In a room
somewhere he picks his way
through three strands of a tune
in a cannon of repetition.
An apprentice following the master.
In the echo of the corridor
it’s hard to tell where youth
takes on from age, the one
becomes the other.

The words, the notes, the sunlight
counterpoint each other round the space
we try to fill. A bell rings.
The morning’s lessons have begun.

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