The New Tutor



Mr Morley sprawls on my father’s chair,

‘It is too hot to work today.’

He smiles sharp teeth.  He does not care.


My mother flits past.  ‘Christopher’-

He tilts the pearl in his left ear.

Languid, half-kind, he smiles at her.


‘Letters were sent,’ my father says,

‘we have the Father coming soon.

This is no place for clever spies.’


‘The boy loves him!’  She almost runs.

Doors slam. My father shrinks.  I see

that he is old.  That she is young.


Now I have William.  ‘A poor school,

his Latin creaks,’ my father says.

‘But he is safe.’  ‘But he is dull,’


my mother snaps.  ‘Still, one of ours.’

(Her eyes are red.)  ‘Some past – a wife?’

The minutes harden into hours


while William plods through prose.  He tries

a joke.  My mother flees.  He stares

where her scents drift, with great sad eyes.


His songs are flat; my mother’s, birds.

The Father calls him ‘a good soul’.

I find him, always, lost for words.

Alison Brackenbury

Christopher Marlowe (playwright, Protestant spy) and Shakespeare (from a recusant Catholic family) are both reported to have worked, in their youth, as tutors.

If you've any comments on this poem, Alison Brackenbury would like to hear them.

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