Monday, May 24, 2010

Modest Truth

I once watched a student teacher bewildered by the inability of the class to see that Browning’s poem ‘My Last Duchess’ was about a murder. I realised that poetry was no longer being taught as narrative or story. Those young people saw poetry as lyric.

I found bringing students and poems together always an interesting task. Interpretations as to what was being said would be varied. I am sure many a poet would be depressed at what was being found in their lines.

Once when discussing this poem of mine, ‘Modest Truth’, with some friends I found they all assumed I meant university students. But that was not the genesis of the poem. It was years ago. I was in Christchurch on a fine late spring morning. I was walking from the museum to Armargh Street and took a short-cut through Cranmer Square. It was lunch hour and there were High girls galore sunning themselves in the park.

The incident happened as I describe. My school-teacher’s severe gaze failed. The girl’s look of scorn at having bested me rankled. Sexuality is so complex. It's a neat, little, honest poem.

Modest Truth

& a blue sky

as I cross the square
through scattered

thighs in the sun
three sprawl apart

as I approach
two sit up
the other goes to pull down
her skirt

it is I
to admit
the self-same
which endures beyond
or innocence
who look away

in all her power
doesn’t yet appreciate
we play
at what we do not understand
and having understood
play on.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. of course, cammot should be cannot.