Here is – loosely speaking – today’s assignment for Writing 201 Poetry. It is supposed to be a ballad about my hero, and should include anaphora or epistrophe – repetition of words or bundles of words at the beginning or end of lines. This is what, unexpectedly, came out of my word-processor.
image (modified) from https://www.flickr.com
He was a teacher amongst men
A God amongst teachers
That day we saw him for the first time,
walking along the corridor towards us in low-slung mustard coloured trousers of a style that no teacher had ever before dared to wear, a shirt that must have been designed that morning and
a belt of leather
a belt of leather with a big shiny buckle.
we didn’t think we had to
all line up neatly outside the classroom for this fashionista
who couldn’t be a teacher, wearing
a belt of leather with a big shiny buckle.
In the English classroom I soon learned:
as he rolled up his sleeves to get down to business;
that the veins on his arms stood out
as he asked our names and examined our
faces in order to remember who we all were;
that his eyes popped slightly
as he hunched up one leg, and placed his
foot on the desk where he sat;
that his socks toned perfectly with his trousers
as he walked around the classroom, unable to
stay still for long because his subject thrilled him so,
that I could see my face in his big shiny buckle
as he treated us all with respect, and quickly gained our respect,
that he was a born teacher
as he turned his attention to me
that he was beautiful
The day he lit indoor fireworks for us to study and describe
he set the waste-paper bin on fire
and my half formed heart burned for him;
yearned for a coming-of-age
My friend cried sometimes at break times, wailing that she wept herself to sleep over
her unrequited love for Davy Jones
pretty little lead singer of the Monkees
“hey hey,” I wanted to whisper
“I got something to say. I’m in love with Mr Bunce.”
He led us outside on warm days to show us what outside really looked and sounded like, and it looked and sounded different when he was there.
He read us nature poems and they came alive just for him.
Sometimes on cold days when there was no spare classroom, we walked from the youth hut in the school grounds, to the crush hall, to the canteen, and then to the assembly room, finding that everywhere was in use, so we would finally settle ourselves on the floor of the stage, with a backdrop of stored musical instruments.
I could have walked with him forever.
I was his top student. He gave me B+ while others got A’s, because he knew they were doing their best, but that the next piece I wrote would be better than my last. But the one time that I surpassed even his expectations
he gave me an A+ for exceptional work.
A stood for all right
B was better
A+ was amazing
He asked me, and only me, to give him copies of my writings for him to keep. A friend typed them out for me.
I took them home, and furtively I
pressed my lips to every page.
I waited shyly after class, and handed the wad of paper to him. It was neatly stapled together into a book. I was dazzled by his shiny buckle, as I looked at my face in it.
I was twelve years old and had no
interest in life below the buckle
He spoke to me of words, and as he did so, he leaned back and placed his hands behind his head.
My eyes were drawn to a dark patch in the hollow of his arm. As I stared, he became discomfitted. His left hand flew protectively to hide the perspiration, and he said:
“I’m sorry… I’m… I…”
It was our most intimate moment.
I wanted to place my dizzy head in his
armpit, and feel the damp warmth.
once when we were on a classroom hunt a gaggle of sixth form girls trashed past us wearing their navy uniforms like ladies of the night, and one boldly asked him if he was going to be at the disco on Saturday.
Inside I raged with jealousy although I knew he would never behave incorrectly.
I wanted to be so bold, so old,
I wanted him to dance me into
a storybook of my making.
He taught me to be a polish refugee when I had to write a war time story.
to be a night-prowling cat called Blanche
to be an old man, waiting to be taken to a care home.
He taught me to write as I had never written before.
He knew that it didn’t matter what passion drove me to write better than ever before;
only the words mattered.
© Jane Paterson Basil