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Personal Choice 78

Timothy Winters

Timothy Winters comes to school

With eyes as wide as a football-pool,

Ears like bombs and teeth like splinters:

A blitz of a boy is Timothy Winters.

His belly is white, his neck is dark,

And his hair is an exclamation-mark.

His clothes are enough to scare a crow

And through his britches the blue winds blow.

When teacher talks he won't hear a word

And he shoots down dead the arithmetic-bird,

He licks the pattern off his plate

And he's not even heard of the Welfare State.

Timothy Winters has bloody feet

And he lives in a house on Suez Street,

He sleeps in a sack on the kitchen floor

And they say there aren't boys like him anymore.

Old Man Winters likes his beer

And his missus ran off with a bombardier,

Grandma sits in the grate with a gin

And Timothy's dosed with an aspirin.

The welfare Worker lies awake

But the law's as tricky as a ten-foot snake,

So Timothy Winters drinks his cup

And slowly goes on growing up.

At Morning Prayers the Master helves

for children less fortunate than ourselves,

And the loudest response in the room is when

Timothy Winters roars ‘Amen!’

So come one angel, come on ten

Timothy Winters says ‘Amen

Amen amen amen amen.’

Timothy Winters, Lord. Amen.

My first teaching appointment was in a very poor northern suburbs secondary school. My pastoral care class of fifteen students were all children with only single mothers. Often, they came without lunch and I remember one boy opening his lunch box to two small dill gherkins. So many many heartbreaking little lives, so many ‘Timothy Winters’!

On seeing a poet of the First World War at Abbeville

Poet, cast your careful eye

Where the beached songs of summer lie,

White fell the wave that splintered

The wreck where once you wintered,

White as the snow that lair

Your freezing hair.

Captain, here you took your wine,

The trees at ease in the orchard-line,

Bonny the errand-boy bird

Whistles the song you once heard,

While you traverse the wire,

Autumn will hold her fire.

Through the tall wood the thunder ran

As when the gibbering guns began,

Swift as a murderer by the stack

Crawled the canal with fingers black,

Black with your brilliant blood

You lit the mud.

Two grey moths stare from your eyes,

Sharp is your sad face with surprise.

In the stirring pool I fail

To see the drowned of Passchendaele,

Where all day drives for me

The spoiling sea.

Charles Causley

My grandfather died an old, tired and very ill man at 55. He had fought at Ypres in WWI and been gassed. I was very young when he died and remember very little about him. But I remember visiting him, alone with my father in his little modest room. And I remember Two grey moths stare from your eyes,


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