All the Little Schools

Tonight in the village of Rutland,
cars and pick-up trucks
fill the school parking lot and side streets.
Gymnasium doors open to warm light
reflecting off waxed wooden floors.
Parents, teachers, and children
wander in and out from the bright rooms
of the last Open House.
Chimney swifts circle above.

Down the road, closer to the county seat,
bulldozers have razed hills and trees,
a century house.
A new school, a huge school, is underway.
All the little schools–
Salisbury, Bradbury, Harrisonville, Salem Center–
turn ghostly.
Soon Rutland too will close.

Families gather under the first stars,
the sky lingering purple and gray.
On the playground, a few kids swing high,
old chain links squeaking as they rise then dip low,
but it is the swifts that draw eyes upward,
the air alive with their chatter
as they loop then dive for home.

The birds swirl closer and closer
as if caught in a whirlpool
they can’t control.
Then in a flash they are gone
down the chimney,
all except one.
Finally, finally, he goes.

Parents turn then and call to their children.
There is still homework to be done.
Lights blaze briefly
as they tumble into cars and trucks
and head down the road.
The old school slips into darkness,
chimney swifts fluttering like a heart.

All the Little Schools appeared in Ohio Connections, copyright 2003.School sky