Late April afternoon

Illustration by Anya Lauri

Within a few steps from home it’s clear
no adjective could do this weather justice
the sky a school parking lot on a Sunday afternoon
its colour the sea in holiday brochures
the light such that no detail’s missed
shade under the trees I pass forming pools
to splash through or plunge into
Shaking off water like a dog
I wonder whether to dress
or walk on like this
the sun warming skin
blanched by winter

© Daniel Stephens, 2019


Illustration by Anya Lauri

While you kids are colouring
(quietly, that’s lovely,
and it’ll last a couple of minutes)
I’ll do the register

Now, who’s here?
Sebastiano, are you here?
Elena, are YOU here?

Edward, are YOU here?
Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes
Marta, are you HERE?
Yes (I’d type that in a smaller font, but don’t know how)

Eugenio, are YOU here?
Giacomo, are you here?
(I can see he isn’t
but there’s a tradition to follow:
calling every name)

GIACOMO, are you HERE?
I repeat for effect
NO! Sebastiano shouts back
his tone suggesting
I should know better
He’s sick
Elena informs me

Brianna, are you here?
The last name
on the register,
she’s new
the niece of a former student
from Peru, I think
her mother just told me
she doesn’t speak Italian

No answer, then
but I don’t insist
maybe next time

I modify my voice,
Two more minutes, kids,
then finish your pictures
at home.

“I don’t have colors at home”
Eugenio complains
“I have LOTS” says Edward.

Tell your mum and dad
that colors are important
I say
and everyone nods –
it’s obvious

One minute! I announce
and start tidying away
the colored pens
into plastic pots

© Daniel Stephens, 2019

Really whizzing along!

Our train took
what seemed like forever
to leave behind
the ad-plastered
smoke-stained downtown
that was January
and navigate
at not much more
than a slow trot –
certainly nowhere near
a gallop –
the endless back gardens
and washing lines
of February
By the first
gloomy fields
of early March
we’d picked up speed
at last, and now
cheerful chatter
opened beer cans
balanced on
seat-back trays
we’re going full out
wheels clattering
on steel tracks
the train rocking
from side to side
really whizzing along
the white trackside blossom
of mid April
just a blur
outside the window
up front, the driver
getting ready to brake
to slow us down
for our first
scheduled stop –
2019’s late Easter –
the grimy city behind us
all but forgotten

Illustration by Anya Lauri

© Daniel Stephens, 2019