school days


Classrooms buried underground,
a breath, a cough, a teacher,
where every window was a riddle
and we were mute behind the glass,
where the chord of chords still sounded
from each bell to the last.

I was frail paper with pencilled veins,
a helpless diorama, a divide by zero,
an overflow and underflow,
a distillation of reticence and fear,
listening for the silent voice.

You must shed your skin,
you must survive
where the streetlight moons
are shining.


Let’s discuss the schedules of the trains,
but first a cup of tea. Shallowness
well-dressed, profound invisibility.

They condense the ghosts with liquid air,
and when they’re solid and afraid,
they load them into carriages
and ship them east to west.

The timetable I’ve perfected
ensures they never stop at stations
where humans might be waiting.

What? You find the topic boring?

Let me tell you of the late-night traveller,
impatient in the Redfern underground,
when her train arrived in a cloud of steam.

She saw her fellow passengers
far too late, their icy stares,
their hollow thoughts.

It doesn’t make sense?
No, I don’t know why she didn’t recognize
a steam train filled with cryogenic ghosts.


Touch me, don’t touch me,
evaporative, immiscible,
four thimbles of electric venom,
plastic soldiers marching, never looking back,
a soft desire to reconcile geometry:
the tetrahedron, the quarktet.

Be careful as you race to put
the pieces back together—
one is always missing.

The stone grey light of deeper dreams
is fading, querida, with the failure
of the darkness.
It won’t hide you when it slips away.

You’ll still be here, where I never was,
and for neither of us,

artwork always sorry (part above)

37 thoughts on “school days

    • Thank you, Duane. How we perceive ourselves, some things are hard to change: the computational NaN, not a number, and when subsequent computations are performed with a NaN the result is always and can only be NaN. Perhaps I do come up with some other outcomes. 🙂

    • Thanks Frank. There is probably a reason for that to do with probability. With digits in numbers, like street numbers, the ones are far more common than any other digit, e.g., 6x more common than nines. This is Benford’s Law. Pity he didn’t explain life. 🙂

  1. Wow. What mesmerising wisps from the past. “I was frail paper with pencilled veins.” That really strikes a chord with me because my 3rd grade teacher always told me to press harder with my pencil. My handwriting was too faint. (I think it was more than the handwriting that was faint.) This one will be simmering inside me for a while. The graphic is beautiful. The words are beautiful. What magic.

    • So glad it brought back some memories for you, BG. It’s interesting which events stick with us. I guess they have special significant for who we are, who we’ve become, even if we don’t fully appreciate what the significant is.

      I know some of the story that is behind this piece, just from rereading it, and logically putting pieces together, but I didn’t write it in any logical way from conscious memories. Thanks, BG, also for the feedback on the image.

  2. ‘Frail paper with pencilled veins’ has a fragile beauty. ‘Icy stares, hollow thoughts’ profoundly frightening. I love your description ‘plastic soldiers never looking back.’ This is all beyond Eliot and leads me to wonder just what do they put in coffee in Australia? Brilliant!

    • Thank you, Margaret. I suspect with childhood events, there is a kind of amplification when we see them in the grown-up present. Children have an innate resilience and are not aware of all the possibilities that adults are. I’m flattered by your Eliot comparison. Now I’m going to go to the local coffee shop and purchase a decaf cappuccino with extra hallucinogens. 🌈

  3. It’s an interesting idea to condense ghosts with liquid air and load them into carriages while they’re solid and afraid. Too bad for the late-night traveller… just a bit of patience would have saved her. I like the nostalgic, philosophical feel of this piece.

    • Thanks, Magarisa. I should have patented that idea, maybe it’s not too late. 😜 I’ve caught the wrong train myself late at night on several occasions. It can be disconcerting, although no ghosts so far.

    • Perhaps you could sell your idea to paranormal societies (clubs of ghost aficionados), who wouldn’t have to keep chasing after them. Condensed ghosts don’t tend to move very quickly. 😉

  4. A successful, slight change of direction. Maybe we’ve all got “pencilled veins”.

    • It’s true. I suspect it’s partly because time passes more slowly when we’re young, and events have more importance for us. Thanks for the description, Jim. A kind of sad magic. Sounds like my childhood. Mmm, I might use that. 🙂

    • Thank you, Clarissa. I’ve never really thought about that, speaking for others. My childhood was bittersweet, and I tend to be introspective, when I write particularly. Of course I never imagined I was Robinson Crusoe. Your comment has highlighted the truth: we’re human, empathic, and what we express is relatable. Thank you again.

  5. This is so very beautiful-ancholic.
    The art work…like a condensed Australian landscape, bleeding. It so moved me, just for starters!
    Gorgeous work, Steve! I feel so truly humbled when I come to your site.

    • Thanks Anna. Five stars is definitely more than I got at school. I was happy with the grid, done with a photoshop combo applied repeatedly. I want to grow hypothetical trees now (ie, images). It’s not as easy as I hoped. Then again, almost nothing is. 🙂

Leave a Reply