Thursday, 6 April 2017

Grammar School - Beta minus


A trapdoor of school magazines, faded blue,
has me falling and never arriving, 
because I didn't "take advantage". 
My fault again. Sorry.

The school year in summary - was I there?
Debating society - I didn't, no argument.
The cricket XI - where? Stumped me.
Rugby squad - packed away and rucked.
The glittering speech-day prizes?
I saw them shinning in the shop window,
nose against the pane (pain?) where we did not shop.

Overseas visits exploratory described - I never went.
So many. Funny that I never went on any?
Abroad? We did not go abroad,
my family, tear-lisped amidst the slag tips.
News of city society - I walked past.
But recent history was ingrained on my knees
and under my fingernails.
Detritus on an industrial scale.

Nihil Sine Labore:
"Nothing Without Work"
was the Dynevor school motto.
Well my dad voted Labour,
and he worked as a labourer,
hard to pay for my school uniform.
Well it got him, and me, nowhere.
I failed of course - they all told me.

Meritocracy ticked the clock of the days,
when, on arrival, I was placed in class C.
Seems I merited that – see?
But my contemporaries in class
went on to university, preordained 
by family aspirations. To their merit.
What was our tradition at home?
No opinion, working class, try your best
to pass on a pass in class. Uh?

Prefects' photograph perfect - no space for me,
just a disciplined nudge along the corridors.
Forever marching to the tune of: 
see if you can keep your head above water
and get the answers right. If you do then ...
But I was never told why the answers mattered.
Only the fun of maths and science aroused.

Stone walled, the chalk master’s gowns gliding
along the corridors of woodblock floors
and doors of looking in on lessons rowed in desks
gouged of years and oils of brows in blackboard
lines from books of all that was ever taught
to the boys soon to be the men that they knew
they would be in the society of the 'morrow.
I didn’t.

The four houses - what, why, where, and when, were they?
Where we competed in sport, or in the Eisteddfod, standing
self-conscious in group recitation, irritatingly alliterated.
There were poems in the school magazine,
and amid the anonymity of words, and with legerdemain,
I impressed upon the they, that I had spoken.
But what right did I have to hold the school magazine?
It was "theirs" not mine, you see.
I did not see beyond the school badge.
Heavy upon me.

Passed the eleven plus I did.
No secondary modern with the failed kids.
No roughing up in the school of life for me.
Just my cap thrown on top of the cricket nets
and bruised right palm from the fives courts.
Gym came, swimming whet again my inability,
and games up the Gange's playing fields
trampled any head-up thoughts I dared.
Stratified in the mud of also ran.
Stay there and wait.

Sour grapes? Well they do hang low.
The glittering prizes were hanging too high for me. 
Form C reiterated that it was not to be.
Winners are from another world.
Light years away from me.

Educated beyond understanding.
Such a shame.

No comments:

Post a comment