I stood there in front of forty-five faces
The first day of term, not especially fancying
“Exercises in Mechanical Arithmetic” and so instead
I read a poem from Kirkup in Japan, about Nijinsky,
Hand-written on a fan of rice-paper.
Thirty years later, taking a Sri Lankan girl
In search of her first job around London schools,
A Head-of-English announced “You wouldn’t get away
With that now!” as though I had committed
I remember sending the boys out to change for P. T.
While the girls changed in front of me,
Was it some kind of incipient voyeurism?
And Sheila, my genius-child-poet, about whom
Redgrove said, “Of course you are in love!”
Or was it the poetry, some kind of anarchy,
“He’s quite mad about it and teaches nothing else”,
The barely literate student teacher said.
Wittgenstein alternated between junior school teaching
Leavis ranted but read poetry inspirationally;
Twenty years later a stranger on a bus tapped my shoulder,
“What you taught me at nine got me two O’Levels,
That was all I ever got.”