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Where Is the Middle School?
Marilyn Zelke Windau


“Hey!” he said as he looked both ways

and tentatively crossed our busy street.

“Do you know where the middle school is?”


It was 8:15.

We were about to get into our car,

drive to Milwaukee to the art museum—

a diversion for me, a newly retired teacher.


School had started two days ago.

Backpacked kids, sort of awake,

were having contests burping their breakfast

as they walked past our house.

They were leaving their 6th grade, 8th grade,

freshman year footprints

on our sidewalk.


This young man, a new 6th grader— 

I reckoned—though afraid,

had the gumption to ask directions.


“You see that one way sign down there,

at the end of the block?

You go down that street to the left.

That’s where your school is.

Are you new here?”


“No. It’s just this is the first day

I’ve had to walk to school alone.”


Tears were building in his eyes,

eyes that would stare at white boards,

SMART boards, and papers all day.


“I hope you have a good day!

Make it a good day!” I said to him,

my own tears welling

for all those students I no longer can direct.


© by Marilyn Zelke-Windau.
Used with the author’s permission.



Marilyn Zelke Windau lives in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin with her husband and year old golden retriever. Recently retired from many years of teaching art to elementary school children, she enjoys her newly free hours to write, garden, and paint. Her poems have appeared in several publications including Verse Wisconsin, Seems, Fox Cry, and Stoneboat. She is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.


Post New Comment:
Wilda Morris:
I was touched by this poem, which I just now read. I am thankful for all the caring teachers I had as I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa.
Posted 10/31/2013 09:38 AM
I can just imagine that tug at your heart. My eyes brimmed as well reading this wonderful poem. Thanks Marilyn.
Posted 08/19/2013 08:35 PM
barbara eknoian:
Your poem made me feel for that 6th grader. Thank you.
Posted 08/19/2013 02:05 PM
Marilyn L Taylor:
Very moving, Marilyn. A really strong poem.
Posted 08/19/2013 08:53 AM
ed werstein:
Great work, Marilyn.
Posted 08/19/2013 07:44 AM
what a touching, beautiful poem!
Posted 08/19/2013 07:43 AM
Maryann Hurtt:
Once a teacher, oh, Marilyn, always a teacher. Now your poems keep me learning.
Posted 08/19/2013 05:43 AM
Ah, but see? You still ARE helping kids...every chance you get! Enjoy your retirement!
Posted 08/19/2013 04:13 AM

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