An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum
Far far from gusty waves these children's faces.
Like rootless weeds, the hair torn around their pallor.
The tall girl with her weighed-down head. The paper-
seeming boy, with rat's eyes. The stunted, unlucky heir
Of twisted bones, reciting a father's gnarled disease,
His lesson from his desk. At back of the dim class
One unnoted, sweet and young. His eyes live in a dream,
Of squirrel's game, in the tree room, other than this.
On sour cream walls, donations. Shakespeare's head,
Cloudless at dawn, civilized dome riding all cities.
Belled, flowery, Tyrolese valley. Open-handed map
Awarding the world its world. And yet, for these
Children, these windows, not this world, are world,
Where all their future's painted with a fog,
A narrow street sealed in with a lead sky,
Far far from rivers, capes, and stars of words.
Surely, Shakespeare is wicked, and the map a bad example
With ships and sun and love tempting them to steal--
For lives that slyly turn in their cramped holes
From fog to endless night? On their slag heap, these children
Wear skins peeped through by bones and spectacles of steel
With mended glass, like bottle bits on stones.
All of their time and space are foggy slum.
So blot their maps with slums as big as doom.
Unless, governor, teacher, inspector, visitor,
This map becomes their window and these windows
That shut upon their lives like catacombs,
Break O break open 'till they break the town
And show the children green fields and make their world
Run azure on gold sands, and let their tongues
Run naked into books, the white and green leaves open
History is theirs whose language is the sun.
Stephen Spender's Other Poems
Read this poem in other languages
This poem has not been translated into any other language yet.
Comments about this poem (An Elementary School Classroom in a Slum by Stephen Spender )
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
James Weldon Johnson
(16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(28 November 1757 – 12 August 1827)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
- The Road Not Taken, Robert Frost
- Alone With Everybody, Charles Bukowski
- I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
- Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, Dylan Thomas
- Still I Rise, Maya Angelou
- Invictus, William Ernest Henley
- Mother to Son, Langston Hughes
- Annabel Lee, Edgar Allan Poe
- Bluebird, Charles Bukowski
- A Smile To Remember, Charles Bukowski
Poem of the Day
- A Tale of Two Handicapped Handyman, Tushar Ray
- Whispers Of Canal-Ghosts, Naveed Akram
- She Walks In Beauty, Luo Zhihai
- Is God both Interventionist and non-inte.., Merton Lee
- Fitina Mai Sand'a, Ibrahim Lawal Soro
- Grandma's Attic...(Prose), Frank James Ryan Jr...FjR
- Diana's Pool, Julyn Pride
- For My Pen, Ibrahim Lawal Soro
- Villanelle: When countries slaughter mai.., T (no first name) Wignesan
- Coywolf, Julyn Pride