"Wait!" boomed Miss Renshaw as they reached the edge of the street. "Do not cross until I say so!"
Cars rolled by. A dog was barking. They bumped together on the footpath, waiting.
"Stand still so I can count you," said Miss Renshaw. "Have we lost anyone?"
Across the road above their heads rose the tangled fence, with swirling metal words painted in gold in the shape of an arch. A glistening spiderweb dangled down from the M of Memorial. Miss Renshaw held her hand up in the air, her long fingers waving like pale streamers.
"Ten, eleven. Bethany, your hat is dirty. Elizabeth yes, you, Elizabeth pull up your socks. Cubby, your shoelaces are coming undone. I don't expect to take such grubby little girls into a public place. Remember why you are here."
Why were they here? They frowned at one another. Oh, yes, to think about death. . . .
"Look both ways and cross carefully."
Cubby bent down to tie her laces. With her head upside down, she caught sight of the water through the fence and the greenery, patches of the great Pacific Ocean rolling in icy steelgray waves, beyond all the yachts and ferries and rowboats, on through Sydney Harbor, on and on all the way to Tahiti, all the way to the Sandwich Isles, thought Cubby, where Captain Cook sailed on his little boat and was eaten up.
"Wait for me, Icara!" shouted Cubby, straightening up, seeing Icara skip across the road through the warm, purplesmelling air. She could feel her lace was still undone but there was no time to stop and fix it now.
"Icara! Cubby! Stay together!" called Miss Renshaw after them.
Wait for me.
Into the Beautiful Garden
They all knew, even tiny, big-eyed Bethany knew, the real
reason Miss Renshaw wanted to go out into the gardens that
morning. It was not to think about death. Miss Renshaw wanted
to see Morgan.
Morgan worked in the gardens. They had met him there one day when they arrived with pencils and sheets of blank paper to do drawings of leaves for natural science class. Morgan had been sitting under the great, creaking fig tree by the seawall, his back against the trunk, his eyes closed, smoking a cigarette. "Like Buddha under the banyan tree," said Miss Renshaw later, "waiting for enlightenment."
Was it enlightenment? Or was it the noise of the children that made Morgan open his eyes? He had beautiful eyes soft, brown, wet with tears, like a stuffed toy. He stubbed out his cigarette and stood up, tall in his muddy boots, blue shirt and trousers, and a floppy gray hat.
"Good morning, ladies," he said, putting his hand to his dandelion-soft beard.
The little girls wandered away. They were not interested in Morgan. But Miss Renshaw was. She leaned against the seawall with him, and they looked out at the Pacific Ocean and Morgan told her all about himself. Morgan worked in the Ena Thompson Memorial Gardens, mowing the lawns, pulling out weeds, planting flowers, trimming bushes, sweeping paths, cutting branches from the trees, keeping the water of the duck pond and its wedding-cake fountain clear of weeds.
Morgan was a poet as well as a gardener, Miss Renshaw told them later, when they had returned to the classroom. "I knew he was a poet," Miss Renshaw said, "before he even opened his mouth to say good morning."
"How did you know?" asked Georgina curiously. Miss Renshaw didn't say. She just knew. Miss Renshaw loved poetry.
"And even more than poetry, I love poets," avowed Miss Renshaw. "The person who has said 'My life is to make poetry' is a brave person."
"Why brave?" asked the tallest Elizabeth.
"Because poets are poor," said Miss Renshaw.
"Why are they poor?"
Excerpted from The Golden Day by Ursula Dubosarsky. Copyright © 2013 by Ursula Dubosarsky. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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