Dancing on the table, blue
patent leather shoes, plus fours.
The same old jig - a touch
of Ireland in his veins, perhaps.
End-blown, the flute
(he'd have us know), the best
for spelling - but the fancy dress
was to appease the gods of music.
Our place to dance around the table.
We tried, but lacked the needed rhythm -
and the appetite. Perhaps
if we'd worn patents or plus fours...
Who knows? Mourners with no funeral,
we were; a cortège with no coffin.
But when the music stopped abruptly -
as it would, the flute flung out
on a long arm's end, its mouthpiece
drooling his saliva
like a baleful dog, and staring
straight at one of us -
we'd shuffle into statue mode,
silent and preoccupied, like
old folk counting, waiting for
the thunder after lightning. Then:
Spell chrysanthemum! he'd roar.
Or brontosaurus! or bronchitis!.
If you were chosen and could spell
your given word spot on (no
hesitation) you could go, walk out,
be early home for tea. Bronchitis
was my favourite. And his. For me,
my annual enemy, I knew it well;
for him, First rate banana skin -
a simple word to catch most folk
flat-footed. He would laugh at me:
I dinna ken anither lad
get bronchitis with sich ease!
One day, my first back after illness,
he had a cake to welcome me -
and that with war-time rationing!
For him, I had a doctor's note:
I'd chronic bronchiectasis,
was not to take part in P.T..
He read it through a few times while
I waited for the classroom to catch fire.
But no, he smiled, then laughed out loud:
We ken you spell bronchitis lad, spot on -
but fecks, your doctor canna!
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