May 25, 2006

May Poem Of The Month

Exam Invigilation,
Dis-Next-the-Sea Comprehensive

Today in Norfolk, a boy has thrown up
Over Intermediate Science Paper 1 and the era
Of caretakers with buckets arriving within the hour
Is history. The June heat is on and, despite
Open doorways blowing papers like seafront litter
Between deckchair assembly desks, it's beginning
To cook the boy's dinner a second time. And the clock
-A candidate has just informed me - stopped on the hour
Ten minutes before I gave them their final time-check:
My shirt has melted from emerald green
To Monsoon purple.....

I haven't felt heat like this since Christmas
When, in response to parental complaints
About conditions unconducive to exam performance,
We hired four blast-heaters from a building site
To roar like rockets in the breezeblock corners
Of our neo-brutalist Sports-cum-Exam Barn
(Put out of commission shortly afterwards
By a Sixth Former trying to drive through it)
Which still failed to thaw its December heart of concrete.

Good to recall our cornered wellards though,
Microwaved to a turn, hair frazzle-permed at 100 degrees F,
Dysfunctional faces sedated for the first time in four years...

The rising smell of sick retunes me to the present.
Our caretakers - Godot and Son plc -
Send a memo to say they will arrive a.s.a.p.

-Let's go
-We can't.
-Why not?
-We're waiting for Godot.

It's like trying to make a silk purse out of a haystack

Like trying to tune a pitchfork in a sow's ear.

Very busy with the tour but just time to post this before May is out. It was featured in the TES on May 19, the day I went back to my old school to run a poetry workshop in the room I sat my O and A levels in. The TES photo pictures the room in my own Norfolk school where my pupils sit their exams and where all the events in this poem really did happen in the 90s. I wish everybody sitting exams over the next few weeks the best of luck and commend them to Warwick Mansell's TES article in which he gives two poets' views of the process. Any readers in Sheringham or Norwich, you can come and see me perform these and other poems from the book in your local theatre over the next two weeks. If first reactions are true, it's a lot more lively and exciting than expected!

No comments: