Free Hour

Jeremy, in his seat by the window,
is mathematically plotting a sparrow's flight;
he beams and declares
        with a glance at his notes
that in exactly four minutes and thirty-three seconds, it will ascend from its perch at the fountain, where it has been taking a drink, and fly through the window onto my desk, where it will remain for half a minute.
As he finishes, he amends "twenty-four seconds"
and I think he means that the sparrow won't stay a whole half minute but he means now it's four minutes and twenty-four seconds away
unless it's not
which it almost definitely isn't.
I leave him beaming, watching the bird just in case.
It tilts its head and flutters over to the park bench from the windowsill,
as unpredictably as anything.

Joshua, at his desk at the back of the room,
is silently, scribblingly, raving,
as I watch adding yet another torn-off sheet to an unruly pile
of what I presume to be notes.
His glance darts now to the clock, now to the ceiling,
and he writes something that he underlines twice.
Now I'm standing by his little fiefdom,
and I can see the swirls and doodles
punctuated by little
terse observations.
As I turn to go, he
        glances first to the board, then to Jeremy,
and writes,
        sparrow-four minutes
before crossing it out and drawing a spine that forks and curls with two heads.

Julie, not asleep in her seat in the middle,
is rereading "The Bungalow," but this time upside-down.
She claims to get more and more varied meanings,
        which I don't doubt. The clock
ticks, and my eyes shift to the window. Joshua
has just looked away from the clock
and (while still writing) is looking over the board,
where someone, I see, has written

A nap brings dreams I'd rather not describe here,
but waking shows that three minutes have passed.
Jeremy is treating a representative expression as separate variables,
and it and they are treating him no better. Joshua
has amassed enough scrap to make airplanes
that glint and flutter as they sing what is written,
and Julie is rereading The Bungalow inside-out.
(A feathery blur is suggested
by no one.)

I step to the window,
bolt it and lock it,
and look as I bolt
from the sill to my desk
at the courtyard, where
suddenly just has alighted
a sparrow, now drinking at the stone fountain.
It gulps in hoppy short nervous spasms
        and I pull the shade.
Counting seconds.