How You Say It Poem by Roger Hudson

How You Say It



Say "kite"
He said
Say it!
Hard
Sharp
Not slurred
"i" not "oi"
"Kite" not "Koite"

"Kite"
I said
"Kite"
trying hard
to get the pronunciation
he wanted
trying
not to show
my anger
humiliation
in front of the class

Public school
Oxford-accented
Hallows
Headmaster
Gallows
we called him

His opportunity
bible reading
to check us
correct us

Say "knife"
Go on
Say it!
Clear
Firm
Clean
Not lazy
"i" not "oi"
"Knife" not "Knoife"

"Knife"
I said
"Knife"
Again
"Knife"
"Knife"

If he detected the slurred vowels
of mid-Surrey,
"Debased Cockney"
he called it,
"Oik"
Any boy who used it
"Oik"
Any boy
who wore his cap crooked
his tie unloosed
his socks not pulled up
could not enunciate clearly
in the approved accent
as befits
a Grammar School boy
"Oik"

Suddenly at 18
National Service
Non-Oxford accents
not heard before
Lancashire Yorkshire
Scouse Glaswegian
East Anglian West Country
All Grammar School boys
Fascinated
An outsider
wanting to be
like them
slide into Cockney tones
that come easy
Pile them on
Wipe out all that drilling
"Knife"
"Kite"
Repeated
Repeated
In one joyful easy slip of the tongue

Thursday, August 29, 2013
Topic(s) of this poem: nationality,school,service,teacher
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