May Song, by Sandy Hiortdahl

I’m one of those professors in faded jeans who wanders around campus speaking Shakespeare and longing for the winter to end in warmth and joy.  May starts the season of freedom and is accompanied by all manner of spirits and high hopes; the frenetic campus energy of stress becomes palpable, sexual, artistic.  This poem celebrates a moment in time where the academic becomes the highly pagan, where the ’emptying out’ of one aspect leaves open a May Day influx of passion and fun.  The trickster from all traditions comes alive in the stairwell, seducing passers-by with the music of dreams.  I hoped to locate it on a campus while inviting the otherworldly, with the ‘notes circling the pole of air’ representing the May pole.

May Song

Late Friday on the last day of classes,

the campus empties in concentric circles,

of sycamores, monolithic dorms, one way streets.


“Come on!” he calls, flute in hand, and vanishes

through the heavy door of Gilbreath Hall, now vacant.

Just inside, he closes his eyes and begins “Beautiful Dreamer,”

he’s heard once only, this morning, on the Bell Clock.

The stairwell swirls with sound blooming through space,

Notes circling the pole of air made by the stairs.


Fingers trilling, he is Kokopelli, he is the Pied Piper,

Celebrating the last day of class, the first day of May.

Sandy Hiortdahl

lives in East Tennessee with an irascible, lovable cattle dog named Kismo Blue and a crazy Jack Russell inherited from her dear mother.  They spend their days contemplating the seasons.  They watch as she drinks coffee and writes, and they never lecture her about getting back to the business of grading papers.  They celebrate all of the holidays with great fanfare, believing it to connect all, dog and human, to the wider world of spirits and fancy.

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