Introduction to education

A smell of institutional ink
and the mildly hot acid scent
of newly pulped paper.
All alien to a four year old boy
driven in feral from the cliffs
and rock. Pre-schooled among
nettles and the docks.

I wore mismatched socks
below khaki shorts.
Hair shaved, bone bleached thin
and a shirt itching a
newly pinked neck.

Tiles, blue and off white
stippled with muck and dog shit.
Hallway as long as a runway.
Cleared for take off to reception
class.

It was called baby infants
in sixty eight.
Reception is a newly minted word,
once confined to hospitals and hotels.

The room like a cavern.
Blue painted walls,
covered with squares of
runes and hieroglyphics.

Later I learned alpha to omega
and that balls came in groups of two
and buses in bunches of three.
Education between the digits
one and ten.

Eleven hung in another room,
older children learned there
from bigger books
and wrote novels in magic
magenta coloured ink.

Our creativity confined
to different kinds
of toxic crayons and lethal lead

Four lines of double desks
matching inkwells, dry eyes
that cried abandonment.
Pine worn clean of its
polished shine.

Bare and scuffed. A no man’s land
that separated the rank and file.
Babies, senior infants, first and
second. Four classes
twenty one pupils, one teacher.
And me.

-Dave Kavanagh

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