standard five
toes numb with cold
in school shoes all the same
crossed at the ankles
long pants for boys, gangly
stockinged legs for girls
under rows of desks
metal frames wooden tops
carved with feeble resistance
a shelf underneath for text books
and illicit snacking,
silent apple crunching.

the teacher would hit the boys
shoulder high hand swinging down
with a small bat named stingray –
it was legal then
in our classroom
in our county.
this is where we spent our days
infinitely long days
in the silent hum of fluorescent tubes
blinds half drawn to steal the sky.
we would understand later
how lucky we were
to have classrooms and books
to be the soft clay
in the hands of a government
with a taste for crushing underfoot.

some days we did not yield enough
were not compliant enough
and out teacher, who had no first name,
would begin to pace the floor
lino tiled – grey from childhoods unlived.
he would walk to the door
with its small round window
look out on the silent expanse of corridor
sometimes resting his forehead
on that cool smooth glass
say the sea is rough outside today
think there is a storm coming.

and i so wanted to be the ocean
outside that window
looking in on the rows of children,
uniformed, heads bowed, clutching pencils in
hands too cold to write their names
or fabricated history.
i wanted to be the ocean outside that window –
i wanted to be the approaching storm.


WhatsApp Image 2017-04-25 at 20.13.29
Drawing by Tim Hewitt-Coleman