Roger McGough |
Chaos ruled OK in the classroom
as bravely the teacher walked in
the nooligans ignored him
hid voice was lost in the din
"The theme for today is violence
and homework will be set
I'm going to teach you a lesson
one that you'll never forget"
He picked on a boy who was shouting
and throttled him then and there
then garrotted the girl behind him
(the one with grotty hair)
Then sword in hand he hacked his way
between the chattering rows
"First come, first severed" he declared
"fingers, feet or toes"
He threw the sword at a latecomer
it struck with deadly aim
then pulling out a shotgun
he continued with his game
The first blast cleared the backrow
(where those who skive hang out)
they collapsed like rubber dinghies
when the plug's pulled out
"Please may I leave the room sir?"
a trembling vandal enquired
"Of course you may" said teacher
put the gun to his temple and fired
The Head popped a head round the doorway
to see why a din was being made
then tossed in a grenade
And when the ammo was well spent
with blood on every chair
Silence shuffled forward
with its hands up in the air
The teacher surveyed the carnage
the dying and the dead
He waggled a finger severely
"Now let that be a lesson" he said
Marilyn Hacker |
It is the boy in me who's looking out
the window, while someone across the street
mends a pillowcase, clouds shift, the gutter spout
pours rain, someone else lights a cigarette?
(Because he flinched, because he didn't whirl
around, face them, because he didn't hurl
the challenge back—"Fascists?"—not "Faggots"—Swine!
he briefly wonders—if he were a girl .
He writes a line.
He crosses out a line.
I'll never be a man, but there's a boy
crossing out words: the rain, the linen-mender,
are all the homework he will do today.
The absence and the priviledge of gender
confound in him, soprano, clumsy, frail.
Not neuter—neutral human, and unmarked,
the younger brother in the fairy tale
except, boys shouted "Jew!" across the park
at him when he was coming home from school.
The book that he just read, about the war,
the partisans, is less a terrible
and thrilling story, more a warning, more
a code, and he must puzzle out the code.
He has short hair, a red sweatshirt.
something about him—that he should be proud
of? That's shameful if it shows?
That got you killed in 1942.
In his story, do the partisans
have sons? Have grandparents? Is he a Jew
more than he is a boy, who'll be a man
someday? Someone who'll never be a man
looks out the window at the rain he thought
He reads the sentence he began.
He writes down something that he crosses out.
Judith Viorst |
My pants could maybe fall down when I dive off the diving board.
My nose could maybe keep growing and never quit.
Miss Brearly could ask me to spell words like stomach and special.
(Stumick and speshul?)
I could play tag all day and always be "it.
Jay Spievack, who's fourteen feet tall, could want to fight me.
My mom and my dad--like Ted's--could want a divorce.
Miss Brearly could ask me a question about Afghanistan.
Somebody maybe could make me ride a horse.
My mother could maybe decide that I needed more liver.
My dad could decide that I needed less TV.
Miss Brearly could say that I have to write script and stop printing.
(I'm better at printing.
Chris could decide to stop being friends with me.
The world could maybe come to an end on next Tuesday.
The ceiling could maybe come crashing on my head.
I maybe could run out of things for me to worry about.
And then I'd have to do my homework instead.
Allen Ginsberg |
Homage Kenneth Koch
If I were doing my Laundry I'd wash my dirty Iran
I'd throw in my United States, and pour on the Ivory Soap,
scrub up Africa, put all the birds and elephants back in
I'd wash the Amazon river and clean the oily Carib & Gulf of Mexico,
Rub that smog off the North Pole, wipe up all the pipelines in Alaska,
Rub a dub dub for Rocky Flats and Los Alamos, Flush that sparkly
Cesium out of Love Canal
Rinse down the Acid Rain over the Parthenon & Sphinx, Drain the Sludge
out of the Mediterranean basin & make it azure again,
Put some blueing back into the sky over the Rhine, bleach the little
Clouds so snow return white as snow,
Cleanse the Hudson Thames & Neckar, Drain the Suds out of Lake Erie
Then I'd throw big Asia in one giant Load & wash out the blood &
Dump the whole mess of Russia and China in the wringer, squeeze out
the tattletail Gray of U.
Central American police state,
& put the planet in the drier & let it sit 20 minutes or an
Aeon till it came out clean
Denise Duhamel |
is what we called her.
The story was
that her father had thrown Drano at her
which was probably true, given the way she slouched
through fifth grade, afraid of the world, recess
She had acne scars
before she had acne—poxs and dips
and bright red patches.
I don't remember
any report in the papers.
I don't remember
my father telling me her father had gone to jail.
I never looked close to see the particulars
of Crater Face's scars.
She was a blur, a cartoon
Then, when she healed—her face,
a million pebbles set in cement.
Even Comet Boy,
who got his name by being so abrasive,
who made fun of everyone, didn't make fun
She walked over the bridge
with the one other white girl who lived
in her neighborhood.
like Slinkies from the factory stacks
I liked to imagine that Crater Face
went straight home, like I did, to watch Shirley Temple
on channel 56.
I liked to imagine that she slipped
into the screen, bumping Shirley with her hip
so that child actress slid out of frame, into the tubes
and wires that made the TV sputter when I turned it on.
Sometimes when I watched, I'd see Crater Face
tap-dancing with tall black men whose eyes
looked shiny, like the whites of hard-boiled eggs.
I'd try to imagine that her block was full
of friendly folk, with a lighthouse or goats
running in the street.
It was my way of praying,
my way of un-imagining the Drano pellets
that must have smacked against her
like a round of mini-bullets,
her whole face as vulnerable as a tongue
wrapped in sizzling pizza cheese.
How she'd come home with homework,
the weight of her books bending her into a wilting plant.
How her father called her ****, *****, big baby, slob.
The hospital where she was forced to say it was an accident.
Her face palpable as something glowing in a Petri dish.
The bandages over her eyes.
In black and white,
with all that make-up, Crater Face almost looked pretty
sure her MGM father was coming back soon from the war,
seeing whole zoos in her thin orphanage soup.
She looked happiest when she was filmed
from the back, sprinting into the future,
fading into tiny gray dots on UHF.
Craig Raine |
So how is life with your new bloke?
Simpler, I bet.
Just one stroke
of his quivering oar and the skin
of the Thames goes into a spin,
eh? How is life with an oarsman? Better?
More in--out? Athletic? Wetter?
When you hear the moan of the rowlocks,
do you urge him on like a cox?
Tell me, is he bright enough to find
that memo-pad you call a mind?
Or has he contrived to bring you out--
given you an in-tray and an out?
How did I ever fall for a paper-clip?
How could I ever listen to office gossip
even in bed and find it so intelligent?
Was is straight biological bent?
I suppose you go jogging together?
Tackle the Ridgeway in nasty weather?
Face force 55 gales and chat about prep
or how you bested that Birmingham rep?
He must be mad with excitement.
So must you.
What an incitement
to lust all those press-ups must be.
Or is it just the same? PE?
Tell me, I'm curious.
Is it fun
being in love with just anyone?
How do you remember his face
if you meet in a public place?
Perhaps you know him by his shoes?
Or do you sometimes choose
another pinstriped clone
by accident and drag that home
instead? From what you say,
For a Chekhov play.
Tall and dark and brightly dim,
Kulygin's part was made for him.
Imagine your life with a 'beak'.
Week after week after week
like homework or detention;
all that standing to attention
whenever his colleagues drop in
for a spot of what's-your-toxin.
Speech Day, matron, tuck-shop, Christ,
you'll find school fees are over-priced
and leave, but not come back to me.
You've done your bit for poetry.
Words, or deeds? You'll stick to youth.
I'm a stickler for the truth--
which makes me wonder what it was
I loved you for.
Tell me, because
now I feel nothing--except regret.
What is it, love, I need to forget?
Stephen Dunn |
The dogs greet me, I descend
into their world of fur and tongues
and then my wife and I embrace
as if we'd just closed the door
in a motel, our two girls slip in
between us and we're all saying
each other's names and the dogs
Buster and Sundown are on their hind legs,
people-style, seeking more love.
I've come home wanting to touch
everyone, everything; usually I turn
the key and they're all lost
in food or homework, even the dogs
are preoccupied with themselves,
I desire only to ease
back in, the mail, a drink,
but tonight the body-hungers have sent out
their long-range signals
or love itself has risen
from its squalor of neglect.
Everytime the kids turn their backs
I touch my wife's breasts
and when she checks the dinner
the unfriendly cat on the dishwasher
wants to rub heads, starts to speak
with his little motor and violin--
everything, everyone is intelligible
in the language of touch,
and we sit down to dinner inarticulate
as blood, all difficulties postponed
because the weather is so good.
Robert Francis |
A seated statue of himself he seems.
A bronze slowness becomes him.
The page he contemplates he doesn't see.
The lesson, the long lesson, has been summer.
His mind holds summer, as his skin holds sun.
For once the homework, all of it, was done.
What were the crops, where were the fiery fields
Where for so many days so many hours
The sun assaulted him with glittering showers.
Expect a certain absence in his presence.
Expect all winter long a summer scholar,
For scarcely all its snows can cool that color.