look out a window
look out a window

there are three kinds
of looking out the window
in school.
one is the kind where
i  happen to glance up as a bird flies by,
or a squirrel drops a nut,
or chases another squirrel.
and then i return to my notebook,
writing in a sentence
regarding the ethics of a children’s literature character’s
feats of strength, humility, or forceful sabotage.
or more likely i return to fill in the blank:  4 + 4 = um… 8.
or on a timed test:  “4+8=8, 7+8=15, 2+3=5, 7-6=1, 10-5=7,
i mean 6,
i mean i can’t remember,
i mean there’s only 3 seconds left,
come on, maybe 5, yes 5, 5 it is!!!
and the squirrel is forgotten.
and the window continues to simply be a brighter part of the wall,
nothing more than a place
where no student artwork resides.

the second kind of window gazing has two parts:
the place where i daydream, and forget
that school is buzzing along beside me
until someone jostles me for a broken crayon of some variety,
perhaps a shade of unnamed green,
since that brand was cheaper
than the ones that have the inventive color names.
but not only are they cheaper,
and broken,
i am also disappointed
by the way the wax smears in chunks rather than a line,
and in the fact that the names maybe help us all read better,
and figure out bigger words,
and definitely by the fact
that the interesting names of the colors really do
affect how the owl
i am supposed to be drawing
in a certain shape,
with a certain size body,
and a clearly defined wing length,
and a watchful teacher’s need for accurate eye diameter
becomes my own.

an owl drawing worksheet
is no more an art project
than a timed math test is a piece of actual arithmetic.
but unlike the math problems - 
the owl can become intriguing - 
if there is a certain color to make it with.

the second half of this second part of window-looking
is when the teacher now calls on me
and raps the desk for my attention,
and i gaze blearily back at her,
having been lost in the world of the squirrel
and the robin
and the starling
and their sharp conversation
argument with the bluejay.
and this is where the second half of this window dreaming
gets complex.
the teacher looks at me in disappointment,
and annoyance,
and jabs her finger at the owl on my desk
(or at the timed math test),
and she shakes her head,
lips pursed,
and eyebrows slanted.
apparently i am supposed to be paying attention;
so i can learn.
and i do,

until we begin reading the books with three sentences in them,
and words that all rhyme
with mat and bat and cat,
and even when we have taken half the year
to graduate to the books with 12 sentences in them - 
the words still rhyme with spring,
and bling,
and fling, 
and then they talk about the end of winter.
and i am learning more from this blue jay in the window
and it’s ideas of spring
than i am with those 12 sentences
in the book.

the third way
of looking out the window
is the most upsetting.
this is the way that is hard to describe
until later,
the one about which i am not sure how to feel
or what to do,
or how to make it less weird when it happens.
this is the way that startles even me when it happens
and then startles everyone else,
so that they think there is something wrong with me,
something i am not telling them,
and there is,
but there are no words to say it.
because why.
because i can’t figure out the context.
so this is how it ends,
maybe by the time i get to the beginning of the story
i’ll know more about why.
it’s like a math problem i haven’t done yet,
i know there are steps to take to solve it,
but nobody’s told me what the symbols mean yet.


so there is the squirrel, or the robin,
or the bluejay out the window,
and i am sitting in class minding my math problems,
or my owl-drawing exercises,
and the squirrel jumps
from one branch to another
and i jump,
startled,
and my head jerks toward the motion
on it’s own volition,
and my heart beats faster
and i panic
and feel hotter than i have ever felt,
and for a moment
i am scared of the owl,
or the teacher,
or what the meaning of 8+8 really is.
and i can’t figure it out,
and all of a sudden i want out of class,

and i ask to go get a drink
and the teacher says no,
sharply enough that i realize i may be interrupting something
and my heart beats even faster
because i didn’t mean to be rude,
or upsetting,
and really it was just a squirrel
in the corner of my eye
jumping
and i don’t even recognize
at that moment
that it was the squirrel that made the feeling happen
and the feelings are jumbled up and hot and electrical
and i feel like 3 people are rubbing balloons on my head
and my cat’s fleas are biting me
and i can’t stand the static
and i can’t even breathe
and i rub my chest
and my eyes won’t focus,
and i can’t even see the blank line
where i’m supposed to put the number 16.
and eventually my body realizes
the danger is past,
for now,
and my lungs begin to welcome in the air again,
and my head nods in tiredness
and my eyes drip water
until the grit is out,
and i find that my hand
is writing the answer to the math problem.
and the teacher is watching me,
but not in concern i think,
more in a grumpy
tired way,
that lets me know she wishes
for me to pay better attention.
and i do.
and it is over.

and when the blue jay wings it’s way
past the tree branch in the corner of my eye,
sometimes it will begin again.

and later when the teacher turns around
a kid
or maybe two sneak over
and grab one of the crayons on the table -
a good one -
one that hasn’t been broken yet,
and says something i can’t quite hear under their breaths.

they look at me with hard eyes
and dare me to tell the teacher
and i don’t
and they smirk.

and when they are done
they fling the crayon back to my table,
across the room,
and i barely see it
in the corner of my eye
and it hits me on the head
just behind my left ear
and they hold their hands to their faces
and try to not laugh out loud
and they laugh anyway
out loud in a big guffaw
and huge breath of air
spurting from between their fingers

and as they spit their laughs out loud
the teacher turns around
and they stop immediately
and they are sitting
and my eyes are tight
and filled with sand again
and i am very very very still
and my hands are in my lap
and the crayon is broken on the floor
and out of the corner of my eye
i can see the teacher
scanning the faces
and the desks
and the children,
and in the corner of my other eye
i see the leaves of the tree
sparkle in the light wind
and i see something small and fast
rush by
and i can’t tell if it will be a crayon,
or an acorn,
or if it is simply a bird
finding straw for it’s nest,
or what it will be.

and accordingly,
my breathing becomes stiff hollow tubes
when things move when they are not scheduled to.
these things occur
often enough
that the corners of my eyes are tricky places.
and windows are places in which to dream,
to imagine,
to learn,
and to fear.

all writing ©2020 unpublished works by Rj/Ruth wplk