Seventies Staffroom

We talked about classes as if they were people.
‘2E in a shocking mood today’.
‘1J might just be starting to get there’,
‘3S have conceived some pact with the devil’.

All the men sat on the side near the window
and all the women on the corridor side;
opposites standing on the edge of each group
were looked at like waggoners at circling Indians.

Some well-known local surnames were damned
especially the obviously Diddakoi gypsies
who were usually ‘tribes’, with dubious lineage
and jokes implying varieties of incest.

Occasionally, someone would include in reports
an entirely fictitious boy or girl
with entertainment derived from seeing
the ‘satisfactories’ duly accumulate.

Bells would evince a gamut of responses
from near panic to total indifference,
some brief spasms of second cigarettes,
some deliberate starts to new conversations.

Free period people would sit in the staffroom
complaining that they never had enough time
while clipboard holders roamed the corridors
exuding haste and assumed efficiency.

A knock on the door would set in train
a glancing, eye-shifting war of nerves
until the more nervous or least esteemed
would crack and attend with a martyred air.

The staff had folk memories, cherished legends
from end of term dos, leavings and welcomings,
verbal and eyeball confrontations,
hilarious tea and cakey accidents.

Out in the yard, the kids ran and shouted
as oblivious to us as we were to them,
like two huge trains forever passing
in different directions on parallel lines.

Bruce Harris

If you have any comments on this poem,  Bruce Harris would be pleased to hear from you.