Wounded Knees

he deserved better

though no one ever said so

his lot by choices made and birth decreed

in another age he might have been a hero

living to a code that he believed

he deserved better

although he rarely argued

accepting that in life we pay a price

so he just got on with doing what he had to

a slave to circumstance

he played it nice

except for once or twice

when folks harangued him

bedevilled him to choose a different path

castigated choices, rules he lived by

then another side was seen

and no one laughed   

courageous then to ethics and behaviours

a knight of old who’d sworn to do his best

an explorer extraordinaire

a real man

tackling each and every challenge

daily tests

he deserved better

one or two of us knew that that was true

and we cheered silently on the sidelines

urging his success in what he felt he had to do

 

she deserves better

I saw her on the street just yesterday

her coat hung heavy on her shoulders

her face resigned to to all she had to pay

she might have travelled once in covered wagons

tilled at soil cemented on some plot

sewed seeds of future, harvested, lamented

a stoic that the caravan forgot

 

they deserve better

perhaps we all do

cast in roles

few choices

birth decreed

unsung heroes

terrain and times denying

that courage stands

on work-worn wounded knees

No Mere Cipher

the west wind blows in

nothing, not a trace

zeroes in at nadir

holds place there

and everywhere

beyond, between

counterbalancing

scale, equalising

positives and negatives

ending function

promoting its position

reproducing to infinity

power of significance

regenerating, regulating

zero impacting, this zephyr

no mere cipher, knowing

the value of nothing and

everything, it computes

The Salt Force

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we skate across the surface of the salt flats

hexagonals imprinted mind and feet

puzzling horizons boundless buoyant

at altitude where earth and heavens meet

we skate for love for countries for our children

olympian with gods encountered there

wreaths of crystal flavoured tessellations  

our crowns with cubic thorns atop frail hair

bonded to the brittle dessicated

in parched seas that mirror clouds and question why

perception plays its mind games at all tangents

while we skate and build the pillars merchants buy

steel-capped toes with buckled belts and braces

dungaree’d to toil and till to max

salaried in coarse and fine thrown pinches

cellars stocked elsewhere evading tax

a pocketful of salt o’er willing shoulders

a world within a world forced to believe

a conundrum geometric in equation

gliding on salt plains we must perceive

beneath the surface tension ionising

cellular components energy

minds must mine mutations magnifying

scale of operations ill-conceived

miners of the salt flats query skylines

skate for country, kids, to flavour fare

but be wary of illusions, thin-iced mirrors

turn and look, the salt force, be aware

Not Nearly Ready

you’re ready

I’m not ready

and I don’t know

when or if I’ll ever be

the seconds

they are racing

I can’t stop them

and they’re squeezing

all the lifeblood

out of me

you’re ready

and you’re willing

I’m not either

but the time

keeps ticking on

till I can’t see

ready, steady

please don’t go

just stay here

while I practise

letting go

to set you free

You’re Younger Yet

you’re younger yet and life holds full its promise

and I would not deny you all its claims

nor ever harness hopes or all that they hold

nor ever seek to squash the fire that calls your name

 

and I would not withhold from you each wishbone

that comes your way, upon which you may dream

nor burden you with harsher truths that years taught

I’d never blot the landscape of young life or all it seems

 

I have no aspirations to encumber the joy you know

for I, too, once believed the dreams you cherish and you hold

I once believed that all I sought was there for ripest taking

if I were, like you, courageous and so bold

 

I’d never take away your youth nor hope diminish 

by word or deed, the dreams we share, though altered, still unchanged

I cannot be the one who says the no to

life’s expansion, growth, by any name

 

life takes on a new form and I’d never challenge spirit

younger years, exuberance that dares

I’d only caution prudence, observation

as you climb the unknown, always have a care

 

as you go along the ridges, meet the strangers

hold within some doubt, please think of this

that somewhere, on the dark of all horizons

is the love that once betrayed with tender kiss

 

you’re younger yet and, out there, there are traitors

beware but still believe that life is fine

I’m older, always here if you’re discouraged

one flight away, one thought to keep in mind

Voices Before Viceroys

the viceroy’s forgotten whose kingdom he guards

he’s looting the lands that he holds

seminal power has been bastardised

by one who’s unworthy and bold

hounding to hell, he pillages grain

grown for the bread of them all

laughs as he does with a hoit and a toit

oh, the viceroy is having a ball

crown on the head though who here has placed

their trust in sceptred high-hand

usurper and charlatan chasing the throne

big chief thinks he’s making a stand

the natives are drumming, the smoke’s on the peaks

warpaint is blue with white cross

viceroy can number the years he has left

who needs an upstart as a boss

Milkshake

Svetlana reposes mysteriously

on couches and cushions of silk

observing the passage of time carefully

sipping on cocktails of milk

mixed with the blood of pilgrims processed

during visits and viced rendezvous

enlarging on life and the secret of youth

in voice laden with honey and dew

plenty of sleep from the harshness of day

a diet of liquid preserve

no more than needed, enough is enough

with some captives held in reserve

twenty or so, going on ninety-two

could be two hundred and five

Svetlana’s not telling though many have begged

and wound up not quite alive

Svetlana reposes so elegantly

batting more than her eyes

her teeth are long gone so she sips through a straw

vampire with sucker surprise

please drink your milk is the lesson she gives

the calcium’s good for your bones

your marrow, my milkshake, donated to live

now, piss off, and leave me alone

1+1=3

This morning I shall finish procrastinating.

It’s time, I feel, to tackle what is weighing and waiting to be done.

I had thought I would do it on Friday night but I knew I was kidding myself. Friday evenings are not for doing work. That, surely, is a universal given.

I did think I would begin on Saturday. Jump right in and just get it out of my way. But. There was shopping. There were washings. There was cooking. A little bit of taxi service. And a lot of, ‘But it’s Saturday. It’s the freakin’ weekend.’

So, I didn’t.

The worst thing about being a teacher is the volume of paperwork that has crept in over the years.

No, that’s not the worst thing.

The worst thing is the number of subject areas that now have to be taught. And planned for.

My speciality is literacy and numeracy. Every aspect of the two, woven into interdisciplinary learning. You know, plan a theme, incorporating many facets of learning. Drive your lessons through that. Easy peasy, once you know how.

That’s no longer good enough.

As a result of the neglect of some sections of society, and a political scene that will not tackle the root causes – or cannot- it is now incumbent on primary school teachers to incorporate, within their remit, a host of subjects that parents used to do. Some of them still might. But, just in case they don’t, we have to.

This term I will have to make time for the kitchen in school. Yes, the children will be learning how to cut up bananas, make smoothies, try their hands at washing up and, hopefully, keep their fingers intact in the process. They will be charged for this. I’ll have to pay for it first and then collect the money from them. That’s not going to happen. Not doing that. I should go to the shops, buy a variety of fruit that they probably won’t like or eat and then hope they reimburse me? Nope. Cheek.

In addition to exploring the wonders of the kitchen, perhaps using one of the microwaves that now sit on the worktops of what was once the teachers’ conference room, some bright spark suggested that the children would benefit from running five miles per week.

An area in the playground has been duly measured, to the mile, and the panting of both teachers and children can almost be heard, through my window on the ground floor, as they bust a gut not quite belting round the yard. I don’t think I’m going to be doing that. I don’t run. Now and again my nose does. But that’s usually because I’ve not been careful with my fruit consumption and have succumbed to a trivial cold. Bring on the vitamin C. I can peel an orange because my mum taught me how.

Health and wellbeing is the thing, you see. Not content with having teachers supervise teeth brushing – I mean, have you ever! – we should take on the role of parental responsibility in every field.

There is now toast on offer in the morning, a couple of days a week. Why not every day? Don’t children need breakfast every morning? Why not serve dinner too? Get the kids into their jammies, a bed time story and the parents can pick them up around nine.  A good twelve hours at school should solve all society’s problems.

What else? Ah, yes, drug awareness, massage (no fecking kidding!), and the thing that is pending this week for me and mine. The showcase.

On Friday coming, the whole school, together with parents of the children in my class, will gather in the hall while my children take to the stage and perform some highlights from the book study we have been working on. I spent last weekend writing parts for them all and burning music to a disc. It’s been a while since I’ve done that – the disc part – and there was some swearing involved until I remembered.

This week, all the work that adorns my walls from the topic, will be removed to be displayed in the hall for the perusal of the parents. Then it will have to be put up again in my class because, in a week or so, we’ll have visitors – pretendy inspectors from the education department will descend to see if we know what we’re doing.

Quite frankly, I’m no longer sure I do.

Once upon a time, my job was to make sure that the children in my care could read and write and count. I was good at that. Still am, if I get the chance. We’ve always taught P.E., Drama, Music, Environmental Studies, R.M.E., Social Studies, Art, Science and whatever else escapes me right now. But, the focus was always numeracy and literacy. The essentials.

The time now available to do justice to those subjects is being eroded by the additional responsibilities that were once the privilege of parents.

I made lasagne and crusty bread with my two youngest recently. All of my kids can cut a banana and know which buttons to press on the microwave as well as how to turn on the cooker and make something for themselves. I’ve always been under the impression that that was something I had to do so that, one day, I could wave them goodbye knowing they wouldn’t starve or set themselves on fire. So far, so good. Touch wood.

In the interests of not procrastinating further, I will end with one last thought. Why is it that the only subjects the children are tested on is numeracy and literacy? Simple arithmetic, that a moron could work out, but not, apparently, the powers that be, (bit worrying that), makes it plain that less and less time is available for the essential PRIMARY subjects. I’m a primary school teacher.

As wonderful as I am at integrating the essentials into multi subjects – and I’m really not too shabby at that – I’m no wizard with time. There are only so many hours in the day to achieve planned aims. There are just too many aims now.

I shall now go and spend the rest of Sunday planning for the current term and trying to bend the parameters of time. Someone’s got to do it.

P.S. (still procrastinating) I just discovered, this week, that my salary, for doing all of the above and then some, has been eroded in the region of £13,000 in the last six years. So, that’s nice. Very motivating.

By Tooth And Nail

You may write of death, destruction and the dance of seven veils

behead the lies when witnessing pursuit of holy grail

shear the locks of strongest men, deliver their entrails

mine and carry samsonite discovered on the trail

You may scourge systemic flattery that panders while it fails

preserve with crystalled clarity the darkest told of tales

fixate upon minutiae, recalling all details

and balk at circumvention upon the grandest scale

You may write with licensed freedom if no power pressed wholesale

investigate impartially and never truth curtail

bring to public notice and with honesty prevail

integrity of stewardship when sworn by tooth and nail