‘par un ciel livide...’
french lessons with gavin brown
tobacco stained walrus moustache
often started late
trailing his gown
stinking of his pipe
he would shuffle in
install himself at his desk
and ask how far we had got
with what, sir?
with what we had been doing
whose turn is it to read?
younger was asleep at that point
‘par en ciel livide...’
what colour’s that, younger?
wrong, sir – fetch the Larousse!!
we always answered wrong
for the bible to be consulted
it led to haywire random words
words we would never need:
the top sail of the mizzen mast
of a three-masted schooner
the splitter of a pelton wheel
whatever that is
a bottle of hay
should you ever need it for your horse
livid, it transpired is the colour of lead
even though englishmen turn livid with anger
after our class had left school
one of us got a letter
from gavin brown
asking us all to forgive him
why? i wondered
my exam results were admittedly disastrous
half those of german
but who else in that bastion of order
would teach us
the utter randomness of existence –
the splitter of a pelton wheel?