Sunday, 28 October 2018

the class radio in ‘59

the class radio in ‘59

"Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea,
silver buckles on his knee,
he’ll come home and marry me,
bonny Bobby Shaftoe"

Sang the school radio back in ‘59;
what did it all mean? Surely
the teacher played it for a reason?

It never occurred to me 
that he was having tea.
Now doesn’t that take the biscuit?


For I thought there was a corpus of thought 
(although the word corpus was unknown to me)
that we, in our poor school were not privy to,
this world across the buckled sea,
and we were afforded this peep, once a week,
of all the worlds across the sea,
that were far from me, 
and Bobby Shaftoe would never marry 
any of the girls in my class warfare.

I knew there was the sea of course,
we heard the ships hooters come over the hill
at New Year to drown out the factory hooters.
And we knew that the river, down there, 
ran into the sea. 
(Why didn’t it walk? - but I digress - again).

My uncles went to sea and brought back
exotic gifts for me, and so, I thought
I could be Bobby Shaftoe see, I could!
I could be Bobby Shaftoe see!

And maybe, we could sing like that singer
on the radio, in the corner of the classroom,
glowing as we giggled and wriggled 
in our rows of ability. But we giggled see
because everyone wanted to be
Bobby Shaftoe see; 
and the girls all wanted to be buckled 
to his silver buckles see? 
And the braking waters of the sea
did stir something deep
that was too deep for them
this side of puberty.
(But I digress - retune the radio)

Anyway, that’s what Bobby Shaftoe
meant to me,
when the teacher had his tea,
and the singer on the radio spoke to me.

       Now they use Ritalin you see,
              to stop them fidgeting.
   And Ritalin marries Ritalin;
                      and no one ever gets 
to see the rough sea;

where Bobby Shaftoe has finally buckled
under the weight of modernity.
The schools run from the rising tides.
The tsunami ships are dropped inshore, 
and ships are high and dry on the Arral sea.
Alas, no one will come home to marry me to
the tides of history. 

For no smartphone says
the truth these days. We are racing forward
on the bow wave of breaking history;
and cold, old Bobby Shaftoe blue,
lies deep beneath the iceberg you 
know is tarrying there ahead,
to marry the end
to the beginning 
of the this sad saga sea.

And ...

Will this wobbly shaft of woe,
  Will this buckled poem 
  come home from my ‘I see’
and marry my thoughts to thee?

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