Primary Schools Poem by Robin S Ngangom

Primary Schools

Rating: 5.0

I remember only the detritus of schools
which taught fear,
where only nuns seemed to believe
in the power of the written word and punishment.
There was a boy in the middle of it all
who once forged his father’s signature
in order to dodge a maths test
and spent the whole day in a World War II cemetery
sleeping between roses and epitaphs.
The intimidation of books from Glasgow
made him steal small notes and coins from his father
which admitted him to a mystic circle
of titbits, cannabis, and adult tales
far away from pink rooms and uniform handwriting
or ‘eena meena maina mo’ by rote
after clambering walls that grow glass-creepers
to the freedom of cork trees and frogs and egrets,
a stinking marshy world of catapults and running noses
which grappled with black polished shoes
and moral science, to return home
on cloudy evenings brewing storm-fuelled nights
exiled on a reed mat and only a hurricane lamp
with slate, chalk, and as the years grew up
inkwell and bamboo-pulp paper
were the keepsakes of his childhood.
There were mosquito storms and
cool dirt floors polished with cowdung and clay,
ruined walls and lizard myrtles and moss
which reminded elders of neglect
near a big water tank left behind by British soldiers
where vipers came to drink, and
gaudy walls of goddesses.

I can see the naïve boy
who couldn’t read the dirty word
spelt on the ground by his older friends
in the calligraphy of randy boyhood,
and, later, obsessed with that moist idea
explored his girl cousins fervently.

There were long delightful, convalescent afternoons
of illustrated classics without
the stress of the school bus when he heard
only the sleepy clang of hammers
in the nearby smithy, when life burnt slowly
like calories even when he was sleeping,
without the solemnity of anyone’s life
coming to an end.

Robin S Ngangom

Robin S Ngangom

Imphal, Manipur / India
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