Personal Choice 78
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.
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,