What didn’t get written on the Blackboard
I’m moved up two classes to share
a table, a pen and a chair.
Inside the door, we’re tightly tucked
under the gaze of a map of the world.
For the older children, Miss Preston’s
Northern voice, hardening then
softening behind our heads.
Working class parents can produce
intelligent children, says Miss Walker.
We love her voice and her guitar,
her renditions of Yesterday.
She is good friends with Miss Tyley.
Very good indeed. It’s the 60s
so we don’t notice those things.
Ossie’s suit has seen cleaner years,
stuck on the headmaster’s body,
sitting in for our pianist. Hungry work –
singing around the holes in the music.
But ma’am I wasn’t talking,
yet here I am at the end of the lunch queue
as they run out of shepherd’s pie.
Parading alone, I’m wearing out the white
lines of the playground. I see
the perfect girls in best friend pairs,
their books in covered baskets –
my mum calls them “budgie bags” –
their prefect badges pinned tight to keep us
on the left. While the not-so-perfect girls
scratch their names on the red brick walls.
My playtime jamboree: a lovely marble.
It’s a honeysuckle swirl, lost
in a game over an old drain grill.
Should have stayed in the bag, being
kicked by Black Jacks and Fruit Salads
and beaten by a Drumstick Lolly.
I suck on my failure. My dentist is German.
Mr Hall teaches Class 7. Top Class.
Everyone wants to be in Top Class.
If your work is good he doesn’t call it grotty.
All five of us are accepted for grammar school,
making history. His book on our shelf:
To Melvyn, love mummy and daddy.
When I leave, he tells my parents
that I am still a little girl. I never grew much.
But I did keep all my fillings.
Some things stay with you forever.
If you have any thoughts on this poem, Susan
be pleased to hear them.