America p.m. trilogy

Night school Musty odors, chalk, old books, mufflers and mittens drying on a radiator, a distant glee club singing -- students gather in tentative classroom camaraderie, rummage for ballpoint pens and second wind with a long day's work behind and hours to wait for home and supper. The professor (who started school reluctantly but never quite resolved to leave) looks out at the faces, black, Asian, white, young, old, most somewhere in between with foreheads lined like loose-leaf paper, wonders why they all are there, then speaks in the sudden hush: Let's talk about Plato and the Myth of the Cave written on a thyme-scented hill in ancient Athens, about distinguishing substance from shadow, replacing ignorance with truth, being just to ourselves and each other. Against the purple night ice-pane windows gleam with incandescent gold. Highway At a point of light near the state line, we pull off the road. In still air our feet crunch over gravel. The screen door slams and somewhere a dog barks. While we drink milk and eat little chocolate cakes from cellophane packets, the storekeepers talk about their grandchild and how they'll soon lock up for the night. Back in the darkness we drive away, tasting chocolate crumbs that cling to our lips. Urban psalm . . . even the night shall be light about me. In the city there is no darkness, the river shimmers with neon suns, dramas move from stage to street, mist haloes lamps with clouds of fire, each person stands in bright relief. Children like swallows finding a nest lie down to dream of lands at peace full of honey and finest wheat. To the cymbal clatter of trains on the hill, the valley answers with shouts of joy: as late workers reach the dusk of their day, early shifts rise to first streaks of dawn. Evelyn Saunders Harmer

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