If you asked me when I was thirteen what I thought of Mrs Pentelow,
I’d direct you to the boy’s bathroom. On the thin, plywood stalls,
Scrawled in black marker pen detailed the pubescent anthem
Of what we thought of our English teacher
While Mother taught me manners, taught me outwards to inwards
With my cutlery
That never prepared me for the reign of fire
My teacher spouted upon my perfect piece of poetry.
How do I react to this?
“Thank you, that feels great. Thank you for your complete annihilation of my work.”
That near iambic rhyme was shredded and burnt alive
By her fiery poker Sauron eyes.
Her last morsel comment embedded beneath
Branded itself in my mind.
‘D minus, try harder.’
She pecked at the words I wrote, thoughts I carved,
Tore apart the letters and highlighted grammatical errors
In every sonnet,
In every rondeau,
In every ode.
Nothing was ever left on the bone white paper
“Get rid of that, get rid of this.”
Kids were called veterans for passing her class. There were only a few –
Janice and Toby, who wrote brilliantly,
But I never got close to a winning grade.
Underneath the advertisement for a trampoline
And above the sales of local apartment property
With green doors and red bricks
Lay her tombstone in a black, 10 point typeface –
Dead at seventy-six.
Just eleven words, nothing else,
Letting us all know she had kicked the bucket.
No fluff, no clunk.
It was only then I knew what she meant.
Right then in her death,
To communicate and write
Without extra portions of metaphors or flabby text.
To be forward, true and honest
And to do this in every poem, every book, every day.
So, thank you
I’m doing okay.