(I remember having seen somewhere a geography text which began thus:
"What is the world? It is a cardboard globe." Such precisely is the
geography of children.)
Geography is the room at the top of the stairs
where Mr. Haugh reigns, waving a yardstick--
first stop on the rise to seventh grade.
He sizes us up with bulging eyes, rattles
his keychain. Already he knows, and so do we,
who'll make trouble, which girls he'll tease,
which boy will taste his simmering rage.
Flexing his gauge, he begins the long slog
over a cardboard sea, holding up for us
strange creatures who eat dogs or scar
themselves or stalk their prey with poisoned darts.
Meanwhile, Carl Rudy perfects the art
of rolling his eyes back in his head like Caesar.
Carolyn Adams and Susie Breidenthal
agree they won't walk to school with me anymore.
"This is the Amazon," says Mr. Haugh.
We chew paper, toy with the rubber bands
on our new braces till they pop or fly off
like tropical bees. He crosses the equator
and stalks north along the seventy-eighth
meridian. We study each other's necks and knees,
the clock, the cracks, the scratches on our desks
which truly, truly show us the way.