Our high school principal wagged his finger
over two manila folders
lying on his desk, labeled with our names -
my boyfriend and me -
called to his office for skipping school.
The day before, we ditched Latin and world history
to chase shadows of clouds on a motorcycle.
We roared down rolling asphalt roads
through the Missouri River bottoms
beyond town, our heads emptied
of review tests and future plans.
We stopped on a dirt lane to hear
a meadowlark's liquid song, smell
heart-break blossom of wild plum.
Beyond leaning fence posts and barbwire,
a tractor drew straight lines across the field
unfurling its cape of blackbirds.
Now forty years after that geography lesson
in spring, I remember the principal's words.
How right he was in saying:
This will be part of
your permanent record.
A friend of mine posted something interesting the other day about a concept in philosophy and psychology, a dichotomy between a "true" and "false" self, the true self being the one which experiences things directly, living with a degree of spontaneity, and experiences the feeling of being alive. The false self is dead and empty, it's the appearance of reality, the facade each and every one of us builds in order to cope with daily life most of the time. While I disagree with that concept to some degree, I think most of us know the experience of putting up some sort of "false" face, of denying ourselves the potential spontaneity of existing.
This poem captures the joy and lasting value of that spontaneous living. The principal was right, that day did go on Margaret Hasse's permanent record, in that she will never forget those feelings of joy and wonder. The actual school consequences of their little escape? Who knows. Not important. What was important was that experience, that marvelous freedom to revel in a pointless but formative adventure. The facade of student was dropped in favor of clouds, birds, and flowers.