Comeback day, we conjure Colin’s return,
picture him stop-starting into class.
Coordination shot, the circuit
between brain and response hijacked–
escaped sheep stand-fasting a lane.
Told to think of him as the new kid,
we daydream of half-speed ghost trains,
popped coloured bulbs; the size of his heart
swollen to a space-hopper. A failed experiment.
Colin the android boy’s batteries won’t charge.
Mr Morton reaches Colin Henderson before realising,
stammering Anthony Higgins instead– too late.
His name cannot be unsaid.
Each tick of the wall clock Colin,
giving pulse to our impatience.
An empty hard-backed chair pushed in tight,
we colour in his absence, denouncing the space
in twenty-four differing images;
recalling his features in copy books
like pencil sketches of the missing.
The edges of Colin’s mouth curl
as if tugged on strings. Incisors crowd the gums.
His right eye won’t stop drooping.
Unable to correct the curve of his spine,
I scribble him over. Start again.
Desperate to spot him first,
we keep tabs on the classroom door
for a handprint smear, the dissolving ghost
of his breath on cross-hatched panes,
his replacement shadow skewing the light.
A testing rattle, as if someone’s got the wrong class,
the register’s abandoned at the ‘S’s.
The door inches inward. The air changes
as though we’re propelled headlong into a tunnel.
Colin’s desk adrift in a hinterland of faces.