This week’s prompt on the Poetry Bus is to write about school. When I lay thinking about it last night I thought about just keeping my head down so as to avoid the temptation to make sarcastic comments about the nostalgic sentimental claptrap that is likely to be spouted by growups who’s memories have glossed over the harsh reality and think back to it as a time of freedom before the evils of wage labour. But the anger I continue to feel at the destruction of my daughter’s self-confidence and esteem during her time in school brought me back to the day she was allowed to leave (you can pop back here to one of my early Poetry Bus efforts to see how angry). We had just got back from spending £42 at the ‘uniform event’ because the new Head had decided to stamp her mark on the place by going back to the 1950’s, complete with blazers, ties, those knitted jumpers with the stripy trim … and knee length skirts.
An extra three inches of skirt
An extra three inches of skirt
will make us all better learners,
will increase our sense of belonging,
will be more ladylike, modest and demure.
Do that tie up
Tuck that shirt in
You’ll never pass your exams
dressed like that.
and remove that makeup,
we all know it hampers learning.
You’re not here
to express your personality.
Cut your hair
Grow your hair
You can’t come in here
with hair like that
and distracting to your classmates.
You are not here to make you mark
but to learn what’s what.
Homogeneity is the order of the day.
Those extra three inches of skirt
are so you know who’s in charge.
(My only consolation is that the kids still resist … I love to see the girls at the bus stop in their too short skirts, like two fingers to the system.) (And oh yes, my son was removed from class for shaving his head!)
Still cagouled against the incessant rain outside
she tucks her capacious handbag between her feet
an umbrella and walking stick added encumbrances
beneath the tiny table.
She arranges the contents of her tray with precision:
scone first, sliced and meagerly buttered,
tea in the pot stirred then poured
the ritual neat and meticulous.
She drinks and eats, and nothing more,
no purchases to peruse
nor interest in her fellow patrons,
unremarkable and inoffensive,
but strangely out of place
amongst the affluent shoppers
with their beige linen jackets and
She is still there as we leave
finished but sitting,
the price of a seat in the warm and dry.
This week’s poetry bus challenge offered several options and I sat musing about what is the first thing I experience when I wake up, or rather am woken up by my alarm, and it led me off at a bit of a tangent. The first line of Auden’s poem came into my head and became the title.
Stop all the clocks, shut off that incessant din
deliberately jarring to the dormant nerves,
like an infant’s urgent cry,
and dragging from the depths of sleep
reluctant slaves to time.
Curse the man who came up with the notion
that we should abandon natural rhythms
of waking when rested and sleeping when tired,
but instead be bound to mechanical devices
that count and dictate
our comings and goings
our ups and downs
our eatings and sleeping.
Curse that luminescent green
flashing from the corner in the dark
demanding your attention
smugly judging you for the dissipation of your life
as you try in vain
to cling to the vestiges of that haven