213. School Assembly

Yellow, warped, the keys on the piano
Clicked and caught
As Patty played.
A bowl of mums, brought
From the county florist,
Topped a table that was piled
With ribboned scrolls:
Deportment Prizes, Speech
Awards, Attendance Pins
For all the grades.
This was not graduation,
Or not yet: this was
End-of-school business.
Classmates had to receive
Congratulation, before all
Could leave today.
Squirming, squeaking in their chairs
Throughout the Hall,
The students sat in front,
Parents in back.

James and Matt
Had commandeered the Fourth Grade
And rehearsed their row,
Enforced with jabs and
Threats: so when their Grade
Winner, Randy R., attained the stage
And stood to claim his prize
And gazed down at his peers,
He saw–
One vivid row of pink
Tongues and crossed eyes.
A triumph, for the Grade,
Of self-control:
No snickering. Teacher’s
Back was turned, and parents
Couldn’t see.

Deed done, James
Looked around and smiled at Riah.
She waved back, oblivious.
Its climax past–
The winners in the high school
Having marched up stairs
And down–the ceremony
Lumbered to its close.

Patty, an impeccable musician,
Stolid as a metronome,
Crashed into a final chord
That rang with wrongness.
Then another; then another;
Jarring, loud.
Riah swung about, amazed.
Patty rose.

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