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Sunday, 29 August 2010

On The Poetry Bus: Three Special Needs Children

Karen, self-styled schoolmarm at Keeping Secrets has asked us to compose poems to do with schools and schooling. She has primed the pump with a couple of excellent ones of her own. You might want to pop over there. It would be worth your while.

Some may experience a slight feeling of deja vu reading the first of my poems. I have introduced this young lady before (here) . Indeed, I painted a somewhat fuller portrait of her on that occasion, even if a rather similar one. The two poems relate two very similar occasions. Unfortunately, there were many such.

Art Period

A crackle of fine lines across the brow,
the final detail of her painting done --
another from the frontier of fear.
They might have been a veil, those lines, but now
she says it is her sister, 'Ashcan', and
she's given her the family disease:
her hair roots push down through her skull
and choke what little brain she has. "She dull,
I hopes the 'ole disease don't get to me!"
As after-thought: a baby in a pram --
naked for some reason -- shows inchoate
root invasion on her brow. "Niece, she dumb --
Don't speak", she adds to clarify. "I draws
her head and roots in anyways. And they
do sting, them roots -- and if you pulls them, squeaks."

The occasion of this next poem was a school journey undertaken during the early sixties when we began to become familiar with pictures of the earth taken from space.


School Journey

Walking to Ventnor
Peter running on
and first to breast the downs.
"Quick, come on up and look!" his cry,
"Hurry, you can see the whole
wide world from here!"
That's how it looked,
I guess, like one of those new
photographs from space:
The Isle of Wight laid out below
was Earth, the sea full-circle round it,
space. And yet he was the first to see
the flaw in what he'd thought:

down where The Needles should have been --
had it still been The Isle of Wight --
a wisp of mist, but clear enough.
There, like a stocking laddered,
space was torn, did not
full-circle Earth. A causeway,
sliver of earth material or bridge,
stretched out
connecting us to God-knew-what-
but-wouldn't-tell. Nor who
or what might cross it in the night.

So easily
a happy simile
becomes a source of angst.

The Goodenough Draw-A-Man Test 

(This an intelligence test sometimes given in those days to young children.)

I'm drawing me...
"Do best you can," she said.
"youm very best."
"And talk", she said.
"Say what youm doing as you go..."

Eyes first -- up here. That's it.
Big. Gotta be. I see the room.
Got all of that in them.
That big!

The head go round the eyes.
Body hangs on underneath.

Arms long
go right across the desk.
Legs, can't see.
Not long. Down here.
There... me!
.

19 comments:

Tabor said...

I enjoyed each for their innocence and how cleanly they see the world.

Jim Murdoch said...

The first and the last were the two that jumped out for me. I especially liked this line in the last poem:

     The head go round the eyes.

It reminded me of David Hockney of all people who always starts his portraits with the eyes. But the first is by far the most powerful poem on offer here, a poem “done … from the frontier of fear.” Very striking imagery here.

Karen said...

These are all wonderful writing, Dave. The first and last, especially are striking. The first is one of your best, I think.

Derrick said...

Well, I enjoyed number two, Dave, even though the others have great personality.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Having taught in Special schools for some years Dave these poems have a great resonance with me!

Poet in Residence said...

I enjoyed the first, if enjoyed is the right word, and was for some reason reminded of an R S Thomas' phrase: "God's failed experiments".

Totalfeckineejit said...

Lovely work, Dave, all three, but my favourite (why must we always have favourites? And tell people?) is the third one.Pure magic!

Conda V. Douglas said...

Wow, I'm impressed as usual, Dave, with your wordplay and your ability to write poems on a theme that are so different from one another.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

I enjoyed all three very much. However, my favorite was School Journey. There was just something so real about it...touchable, you might say.

Peter Goulding said...

Three highly striking takes on the one theme. Art period, in particular, seems to have many layers.

Dave King said...

Tabor
Yes, I do agree. And clarity. Thanks.

Jim
I agree with the first and last, but didn't know the bit about Hockney. Very interesting, that. Thanks.
Incidentally the frontier of fear line was the last line written. I thought I had finished the poem, read it through and thought it didn't put the activity into a proper context, so added that line.

Karen
Thanks Karen, useful comment.

Derrick
All useful. All three poems relate to times and personalities about which even now I struggle to be neutral, so any help in that direction is gratefully received.

Weaver
I guess you'll understand my comment to Derrick, then. Thanks.

Poet in Residence
Welcome and thanks for the observation. Just off hand I can't recall the context for the R.S.Thomas remark. I shall have to look it up.

Totalfeckineejit
Really! That surprises me slightly, but all the more welcome for it. Thanks.

Conda
Much appreciated as always. Thanks

K.Lawson Gilbert
A warm welcome to you and many thanks for the comment. As I indicated above, it is difficult for me to see them objectively, so feedback is much appreciated.

Peter Goulding
Welcome, and yes, from my point of view that would be so. Good to know that it comes across. Thanks.

Martin H. said...

I really like 'School Journey' not least, because, some of my family hail from the IOW.

"..like a stocking laddered,
space was torn.." Marvellous.

Dave King said...

Martin
A warm welcome to you and many thanks for visiting and commenting. I have visited the I.o.W. many times, first as a cyclist and later with school groups. I grew very fond of it.

Argent said...

A very distinctive voice to your first one and the rhythm of the closing lines of it makes it my fave of yours this week.

Dave King said...

Argent
Thanks for a very helpful comment.

Dick said...

All three are fine poems, Dave, but 'School Journey' really does hit hard. How real learning - that obtained through direct experience - can frighten and confound.

Dianne said...

interesting how poetic children's style of speaking can be. Dementia has a poetry also, a song almost.

You are in the moment, present and attentive, Dave.
Dianne

Dave King said...

Dick
Yes, agreed. It was a dramatic moment early in my career and was influential in just that way. it is still very vivid.

Dianne
Good to hear from you, and, yes, I totally agree. Thanks.

joaquin carvel said...

these very different takes, taken together - wow. the second, especially, made me catch my breath. thanks for sharing these.