Poetry

On a Small College Campus in Early Winter by Hayley Stoddard

On a small college campus in early winter, 
through the walkways daily, teem
students who come to lay their sacrifices 
on the altar of some intellectual dream
who sweat their foreheads for some precious gem of light, 
one and every one, they come, and I among them. 

The background of the sidewalk paths is buzzing with the white noise of campus life, 
of cars and brakes and wind rushing through icy dead leaves, 
of leather boots crunching on the snow, the thick patter of rubber soles on cement, 
a thousand beating hearts and a thousand pounding brains.
The air is permeated with the heavy icy breath of a thousand sweaty pantings
and the rustling of coats and jackets as they all swish and swirl past around each other,
with heads bent down to the snow, rarely speaking.

You can hear the sound of backpacks filled with weighty knowledge 
as a thousand voices crying from the dust, 
chafing against the shoulders that weigh so heavy down, tired of carrying 
but resolute in their conviction to keep them on, unwilling to let down their burdens
like slow soldiers, steadily marching each with his own precious pack,
they move past one another in circles, in squares, in straight lines, rarely speaking. 

The runner is going in his holy circles round the long blue track,
his muscles strain as round he goes like Sisyphus, 
both his physical torment, and his holy sacrament, 
sweat-soaked and trembling he emerges, purged and clean. 

The songstress in some tiny room runs her sweet golden tones 
up and down her scales, like a soft hand running over a collection of jewels, 
till then she releases what is truly inside, some long-held heartbreaking melody
to the walls of the practice room, she sings it all, and I can hear her
but on the sidewalks, she simply passes, saying nothing to me. 

The chemist likes to play the hand of God
as he coaxes solutions together and apart, the many-colored glass vials
creating with their clinking a tiny symphony in the quiet lab,
as his every and best efforts come then to a miracle under a microscope,
his heart can barely contain his frenzied jubilee, 
but only the white walls of the lab hear it
for on the sidewalk he is burning up, not saying a word to me. 

Come then, stranger as now but friend in truth,
Keep your books and take my hand, for I am here for the same reason as all of you.
I see you, my shoulders tire from the same old heavy weights 
My feet pound along a blue track, my knees shaking, my heart still racing, 
my swallowed song desperate for some hearing ear,
my scientific God-games shouting to be seen and heard too.

For I am you, and every knowledge there could be lies within me,
every question the mind or soul seeks an answer to,
I am both asking some questions and answering others,
as do you every single day of your life, dear reader. 

Why not say hello to me then stranger, and I to you? 
Let us be no more strangers, for already in purpose we are exactly alike.
Every hidden hello as eyes glance up and then down 
is not lost on me, for I can see them all, and I feel the wish to say something back 
to every one of your painfully swallowed salutations. 
Speak then my friend, and don’t be afraid. I will hear you. 

Or, keep your books to yourself, but give your hands to me, 
the same hands that write every question and every answer,
fingers that whip ink in crazy lines onto a thousand reports
that turn the pages of every sort of book known to man,
come and touch the centers of both of my palms, feel my aching side,
and find the love and truth that lies so quietly, sitting there
simply forever waiting for you to come and discover it. 

Photo by Aditya Vyas on Unsplash