Geography Lesson – Brian Patten

Our teacher told us one day he would leave 

And sail across a warm blue sea 

To places he had only known from maps, 

And all his life had longed to be. 

The house he lived in was narrow and grey 

But in his mind’s eye he could see 

Sweet-scented jasmine clinging to the walls, 

And green leaves burning on an orange tree. 

He spoke of the lands he longed to visit, 

Where it was never drab or cold. 

I couldn’t understand why he never left, 

And shook off the school’s stranglehold. 

Then halfway through his final term 

He took ill and never returned, 

And he never got to that place on the map 

Where the green leaves of the orange trees burned. 

The maps were redrawn on the classroom wall; 

His name was forgotten, it faded away. 

But a lesson he never knew he taught 

Is with me to this day. 

I travel to where the green leaves burn 

To where the ocean’s glass-clear and blue, 

To all those places my teacher taught me to love 

But which he never knew.

The Newcomer – Brian Patten

‘There’s something new in the river,’ 

The fish said as it swam. 

‘It’s got no scales, no fins and no gills, 

And ignores the impassable dam.’ 
‘There’s something new in the trees.’ 

I heard a bloated thrush sing. 

‘It’s got no beak, no claws, and no feathers, 

And not even the ghost of a wing.’ 
‘There’s something new in the warren,’ 

Said the rabbit to the doe. 

‘It’s got no fur, no eyes and no paws, 

Yet digs further than we dare go.’ 
‘There’s something new in the whiteness,’ 

Said the snow-bright polar bear. 

‘I saw its shadow on a glacier, 

But it left no pawmarks there.’ 
Through the animal kingdom 

The news was spreading fast. 

No beak, no claws, no feather, 

No scales, no fur, no gills, 

It lives in the trees and the water, 

In the soil and the snow and the hills, 

And it kills and it kills and it kills.

Poem – When You Wake Tomorrow

I will give you a poem when you wake tomorrow. 

It will be a peaceful poem. 

It won’t make you sad. 

It won’t make you miserable. 

It will simply be a poem to give you 

When you wake tomorrow. 
It was not written by myself alone. 

I cannot lay claim to it. 

I found it in your body. 

In your smile I found it. 

Will you recognise it? 
You will find it under your pillow. 

When you open the cupboard it will be there. 

You will blink in astonishment, 

Shout out, ‘How it trembles! 

Its nakedness is startling! How fresh it tastes!’ 
We will have it for breakfast; 

On a table lit by loving, 

At a place reserved for wonder. 

We will give the world a kissing open 

When we wake tomorrow. 
We will offer it to the sad landlord out on the balcony. 

To the dreamers at the window. 

To the hand waving for no particular reason 

We will offer it. 

An amazing and most remarkable thing, 

We will offer it to the whole human race 

Which walks in us 

When we wake tomorrow.

Poem – First Love

Falling in love was like falling down the stairs Each stair had her name on it 

And he went bouncing down each one like a tongue-tied 

lunatic 

One day of loving her was an ordinary year 

He transformed her into what he wanted 

And the scent from her 

Was the best scent in the world 

Fifteen he was fifteen 

Each night he dreamed of her 

Each day he telephoned her 

Each day was unfamiliar 

Scary even 

And the fear of her going weighed on him like a stone 

And when he could not see her for two nights running 

It seemed a century had passed 

And meeting her and staring at her face 

He knew he would feel as he did forever 

Hopelessly in love 

Sick with it 

And not even knowing her second name yet 

It was the first time 

The best time 

A time that would last forever 

Because it was new 

Because he was ignorant it could ever end 

It was endless