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Saturday, 14 April 2012

What Jess Really Really Wanted

Years ago they'd marked her card -
dog-eared by this time.
Trouble-maker, that was Jess.
Ask her what she wanted most from life
she'd say to see the school
and all her enemies
go up in flames -
or some such thing.

And then there were her cronies,
six or seven girls
who called her heroine.
The Devil Crew.
You could walk into their class
(thirty pupils plus)
and feel the vibes.

No one had an answer.
Jess Morrison - beyond the pale.
That's how it was and always had been,
that's how it remained
until the day that Mrs Grayling left
(as many others had - from stress)
to be replaced by Mrs Morrison.

The custom of the school
was for teachers to address
the students formally
by family names.
But calling "Morrison" felt awkward
for new Mrs Morrison.
She called Jess, Jess
and Jess, we think, believed
herself now privileged
and favoured.
And Jess responded,
lost her anger, dropped
her snide remarks
and settled down to work.
Quite accidentally
the key to Jess had come to light.

So when the class was asked one day:
"What are your dreams?"
most wrote of colourful scenarios,
but Jess described "a little house,
a baby and a garden with a swing,
and in the bedroom,
carpet that will go from side to side
and underneath the bed".

Written for The Think Tank Thursday #92 Key

28 comments:

Dick said...

Poignant and affecting, Dave. Teaching brings so many vignettes. All human life etc!

Tabor said...

Always that one student and that one teacher who somehow combined make the magic formula!

A Heron's View said...

Formality is so cold and it is only when we reach out from our hearts, that the ice melts to reveal the flower!

Adura Ojo said...

Amazing outcomes that a dynamic relationship can bring...as in all caring relationships, its the quality of the relationship that affects the outcome. Well captured here and a creative take on the theme, Dave.

Daydreamertoo said...

She needed the courage to just be herself.
Very powerful and image-filled write Dave. You show such a depth of compassion for others in your work. Love it.

Luke Prater said...

What a wonderful little Narrative piece - totally consumed me til the last. Real or fictional, I so appreciate a decent Narrative piece. Could almost call it a modern ballad. Love your work, David. Told rather than shown in one or two places but tere's no denying this is excellent

Mary said...

Enjoyed this portrait, Dave. Glad that the teacher found the right key, even though quite by accident. Or perhaps it was fate. Who knows.

Brian Miller said...

big smiles...and you know we all hopefully get that one teacher or someone that opens the world to us...love it...mine, her name was darlene...

manicddaily said...

Hi Dave, agree with all the above but Luke especially. I love the narrative flow of this. It tells the story so simply, but, of course, with real craft, going in and out and returning again sort of to where you started but a very different place. Much enjoyed.

K.

jabblog said...

Very affecting. Treating children as people reaps rewards.

Cressida de Nova said...

I like the carpet going underneath the bed.That is a nice goal.I found this ending to be a bit sad.
Jess was unloved I think.

De said...

This is beautiful, and sad, and yet infused with hope. Well done.

Cait O'Connor said...

So when the class was asked one day:
"What are your dreams?"
most wrote of colourful scenarios,
but Jess described "a little house,
a baby and a garden with a swing,
and in the bedroom,
carpet that will go from side to side
and underneath the bed".

This short verse, so moving, speaks volumes. What a great poem you have written. I'd wager it is a true story?

Friko said...

You are writing well, dear Dave; this poem is so simple and straightforward, until the end. Which came quite unexpectedly to this reader. But that is, of course, what makes it into a poem.

Glynis said...

Beautiful! Jess was "seen"..finally, I think.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

Vivid memory. I wished it lasted longer.

Cloudia said...

you have a great heart, Dave.

Have you seen the American HBO series "The Wire?" I am currently wrapped up in it like a Dickensian novel. You might enjoy it as well.


Warm Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

> < } } (°>

turtlememoir said...

Ah, the key to Jess... There is a key to all us difficult ones, and our 'luck' turns when someone cares enough to try turning it. Such a beautiful, caring (if I can say that about poetry) story-poem, this - and so perfectly executed.

ds said...

To be known for your "real" self. Yes. Why is that so difficult. Perceptive, beautiful and true (even if not actual--or is it?).

The Elephant's Child said...

And do any of us know what our keys are until someone turns them. This was lovely. Thank you.

Dulcina said...

Touching poem, Dave. A good portrait of a rebel who was tamed in such an easy way, just being called by her name, the magic key: she felt unique in the eyes of her mates.
What Jess really, really wanted was to be treated as a human being, as everybody in this world we live.
As a teacher I learnt that most trouble maker pupils try to attract others' attention - mainly their teachers' - as an act of rebelion, of disagreement towards some school methods, such as adressing students by numbers or surnames.
The heroine of the Devil Crew, hehehe, yes, exactly; I have known many heroines and "devil crews".
Beautiful end with a nice Jess whose dreams are family, husband, children, so simple, so pure, so far from modern times desires.
This post has brought to my mind the letter one of my pupils, who had been expelled for misbehaving, sent me; she wrote: "the only good memory I have of school is the way you treated me". Some years later I was told she had commited suicide...
So many Jesses!
What would have happened if her surname had not been Morrison...?
:)

hyperCRYPTICal said...

Excellent Dave!

Sometimes we forget that children are human too and need respect...

...and respect breeds respect.

Anna :o]

A Cuban In London said...

Well, you used to be a teacher yourself. I wonder how many Jesses you came across? It's a pity that sometimes we look only at a person's surface and not their entire self. Poignant poem. Thanks.

Greetings from London.

Ygraine said...

Jess was feeling such inner hurt at being 'just another statistic', while all she really needed was to be acknowledged as an individual.
I love the sense of healing here, Dave.
A wonderfully perceptive poem :)

ccchampagne.com said...

Coincidental or not I've sent in my application to start training as a teacher from this autumn today... So reading this feels like a good omen... *smile* Very important read!

Madeleine Begun Kane said...

Very touching and sensitive poem.

Dave King said...

To all
My sincere thanks to everyone for such a scintillating set of comments. I cannot stress too strongly how impressed I have been and how much in debt to those who put in time and thought to respond. Unfortunately, I am still having a little local difficulty with the website, which was enough to prevent me from replying to you all individually. I shall hope to do so later today. Thanks again,
Dave.

Dave King said...

Dick
Absolutely! Thanks.

Tabor
Yes, you are right. Going back over my classes, I can usually pick out THE one!

A Heron's View
Perfectly put. Thanks for saying.

Adura
Thanks so much - and yes, well said.

Daydreamertoo
Kind words. Much appreciated. Thanks.

Luke
Lovely response, for which I thank you very much. It is a true tale. The names I changed, the rest is as I believe it to have been.

Mary
Fate. Yes, let's say it was fate!

Brian
Yes, don't w just. We can't always get them, but usually it only needs one. Thanks.

manicddaily
Thank you so much. greatly appreciate the generosity of these words.

jabblog
Absolutely agree. That's what it should al be about.

Cressida
The carpet was what brought it all home to us: her ambitions turned out to be so ordinary!

de
Thank you so much.

Cait
Yes, it is a true story. Thank you for your kind words.

Friko
A critique to treasure. Thank you so much!

Glynis
Yes, she was - and it came as a shock to everyone who had thought they knew her.

Tommaso
Me too.

Cloudia
I've seen som episodes of the Wire. Wish I'd seen more.

turtlememoir
Indeed you can say it - and I thank you for it very much.

ds
you are right in all of those - and it is actual.

The Eleohant's Child
Good point. No, I don't think we do.

Dulcina
Thank you for all these thoughts. I was going to add what a wonderful memory to have had that letter from your ex-student, but hen hearing that she had committed suicide, rather changed the complxion of that. What a sadness that must have been for you and others! You finish with the poser that has always exercised me. Unanswerable, I guess.

hyperCRYPTICal
Thank you for this. yes, we do. You are right.

Ygraine
Thanks for most encuraging response.

ccchampagne
I do so hope it all works out for you. Have a great career!

Madeleine
Many thanks for this.