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Teaching Time


Jack must’ve climbed a corn stalk--for by the time I heard rumor 

of school starting, the rows marched up the hill and the leaders

hid their tassel tops in a cloud’s belly.   I would’ve laughed

at gravity and followed Jack, but then Claude Jester came

running from the tobacco barn, just as the wind blew

a wrinkled piece of tin over his head: the thunder

boomed and that was the end of summer: Mom

said, “Soon we’ll need to buy you some green

jeans and new shirts, Johnny,” and I worried 

that my friends would have forgotten my 

name, it had been so long since May.  

That rainy afternoon, Mama let me

play with a clock she used for 

teaching time.   I spun the 

blue minute hand around 

the red hours, I dreamed

through the years, until

I had a wife and three

daughters. When the 

girls were little, we 

liked to go to the

science museum, 

and there we 

dropped pennies 

into a slot that 

sent the coins 

circling in a big

yellow funnel,

we watched 

them gain 


the years

speeding up, 

each penny 

finishing in

a blur, a 

rising whir,

and then




--John Thomas York

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