Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Right To Be Angry

It was the only kind of life they had ever known.

For what seemed like several eternities they had lived an oil painting existence, gathering dust and cobwebs. A new generation of children was born, but they too merely took their place in the existing order of things without so much as a whisper of protest. Time stood still for them while progress marched on the rest of the world. They marked the ends of years by the coming of the snow.

Only madmen ever raised their voices, shouted snatches of nonsense about freedom and equality. They were quickly taken away and nobody remembered them. The echoes died down all too soon.

It had been a bad year for the village of potato farmers. Winter came early and spring not at all. The drought was spreading, a bony-clawed witch who raked their fields barren. Many families lost children that year. The bitterly cold nights were filled with the wails of hungry babies. But they were a doughty and resilient people, the potato farmers, with skin as brown and tough as they earth they cultivated. In their simple minds they knew they would return to the earth some day, and so these transient days of suffering were borne with stoic, miraculous indifference.

But the cogs of history were breaking free of their rusty trappings and beginning to move again. The final straw came in the form of a feminine voice, delicate and sweet as jewelled bells: "Let them eat cake."

The cold December wind carried the whisper far and wide. It echoed in the rocky mountains of the north and in the river valley towns. It mingled with the red juice of the vineyards and buried itself deep in the soil. And a few sparks alighted in the forests and set them ablaze. The fire spurted up and bloodied the sky.

In the village of potato farmers the first pickaxe was lifted. People of the earth, unused to agitation, suddenly found themselves slipping off the tracks their destinies had marked for them. 'Liberte, egalite, fraternite' were only words to them, of no more consequence than the call of the wild stork in the woods. But holding the body of her youngest child in her arms, a ragged young peasant wife felt a stirring in her, greater and more potent than mother-love. A curious feeling; like a tide it moved from one house to another, feeding on itself, gathering in destructive potential. The mountains quaked that day. The wind lifted up the breath of their fury and wafted it back to the city where at that very moment the first winecask was shattering on a cobbled street. The peasant in the field grasped in both calloused hands the guttering flame and realised in himself the most primitive force of all. While philosophers in universities and churches debated the rights granted to the human intellect, the humble sower of the earth discovered the right guaranteed to human blood.

Enlightenment came to the land in many forms. An unnamed village of potato farmers discovered their most basic right that day. The right to be angry. And they responded en masse to its simple, terrible call.

At the same time, many miles away, the first brick was hurled at the walls of La Bastille.

Another Chatto essay. I have a feeling this will end up in the school magazine too. Someone please tell me if I write crap in school too or just at home.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

All Ye Need To Know

Poetry in motion.
On her curved thrusting back
And her ploughman's knotted arms
The sweat of earth on stone.
Tendons strain and crack,
And clotted sinews swarm
Over all her grinding bones.

The spotlight's glaring eye
And the violin's plaintive cry
Show quite a different feat.
A sheer gauze fairytale,
She hovers, poignant, pale,
And flies- a fragile vision
On silken calloused feet.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Instant Sociology

Q. Is education an agency of socialization or a means of social control? Explain with examples. [10]

The pen twists in my hand. Scratches fretfully. Reach down for a drink of water. Clock's ticking. Heads are bent busily, writing, writing. I'm next to the window today. The nursery classes are in the foyer two floors below. Medley of littleone voices singing along with the 'aunties' and the piano:

"Who made the great big mountains tall?
Who made the birds and fishes small?..."

Toddlers have a lot to think about, I suppose. I keep listening, and the song continues, now changing tack, crescendoing into the chorus.

"...Kisne banaya machhliyo ko?
Kisne banaya phoolo ko?
Kisne banaya duniya ko?
Hamara Jesus lord."

Education. Social control. Explain with examples. I could. But somehow, I don't think it would be considered suitable for examination purposes.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Love Song for A Sailor

You brought me, sweet, so many things
Before you brought me pain-
A case of tea from Sicily,
A rose from southern Spain.

You left me, love, that morning
A compass I've now lost,
A salt-streaked eye, a stormy sky,
An anchor for my cross.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Sentimentalist

Spent a life mid dusty tomes
And the ghosts of antiquity,
Sighed his private longing sighs
For Something that Ought to Be,
Built his cottage in the air
At the shore of that sunless sea.

We let that bug-eyed jimmy know
Poetry don't sell
-Unless it's that new modern jazz,
Coffeetable razzmatazz-
Give em that reality
Right between the eyes.
Hot as Starbucks, instant mix,
The naked truth'll do the trick,
Shock if you can't surprise.

Nothin personal sonny,
But our research people show
Yer pretty does not work this crowd
And the stocks for love are low.

(And listen kid, you
Rhyme too much
To be

His humour was unfunny.
His grief a private thing.
Anger didn't yield clarity.
Hard hitting was not in him.

So he retired to a paling paradise,
A mediocrity of a kind.
His last regret-
That Romantic death
Was now so hard to find.

Monday, 8 March 2010

History Lessons

After accounts of wars that all went wrong,
Pacts destined to fail all along,
And lists of the vanquished (alphabetised),
All I have memorised

Is the sweep of an arm commanding fear,
And the doom of nations written clear,
Written clear, as clear as death,
In a single pair of eyes.

Friday, 29 January 2010


There was once a man who dug his own grave
Looking for a quiet place to lie.

Country gin,
A gramophone,
Indigo evenings spent alone-
Not too much to ask.
He didn't have to die.

In your cementbound darkness in a nameless smalltown,
In an overflowing cellar with the door clamped down,
Playing your violent blues in the deep underground,
I hope that you found it somehow.

Friday, 1 January 2010

A Winter's Tale

Terrible weather it was,
And all in all a most
Inconvenient day
For that sort of thing.

But the hour had been anointed.
There were choirs ready to sing.

The child looked up
At brown gypsy faces
In guttering candlelight,
At snow on the earth.
Felt the hot stink of cattle
And the heat of their gazes,
And cried
Though angels praised his birth.