A photo detaches from its rest and finds the floor –
blurred faces, young, grey, names mostly gone,
but there is my sheepish grin in the back row.
We are uncomfortable for the camera, made to lose
our childish selves by being still. And so the years.

This year. Top junior class of 59.
Some still I recognise, but others, all the girls,
who knows? Amongst us will be the early deaths,
from accident or cancer, or from cares.

But this is fifties London, our parents fought
and knew the Blitz. War has managed them,
and helped to bring us here. Next to our school
a bombsite’s opened privacies and crumbled lives –
between our playground and the dentist’s, another missing tooth.

Across the road, St Mary’s, it’s tower sides
a rocket ship held down by copper strips.
We pass in twos to eat our daily dinner in the hall.
Served from vats, the suets, stews and
watery mash presented, warm and flavourless,
the form and spirit of the age. We would not
starve, and red capsules with our daily milk
went down quick lest they should burst.

And in our classes, little remains: is what we are.
Our teachers, absent, reduced to names. Mr,
Mrs, Miss. They’re going too, their wrinkled frowns,
Their greying hair, a carbunkle or a wart or two.
What they taught lives on, but unremembered.

Our playground races, zooming dogfights
arms outstretched, the daily rituals of scissors,
paper, stone, are there, as are the journeys home,
and waiting for the bus. A 54 or 109.

And here we stand, summoned from arithmetic or crafts,
to show how smart, how cared for, are our shoes and smiles.


  1. A magnificent, and very moving, poem – handling expertly trivial but telling material in a way I’ve not seen any other poet manage, and taking the risk, literally, of putting yourself in the picture!


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