Poem: Schoolboys on a bus

I like my bus rides into town. We are a very mixed bunch, but I like best checking out the real-life youngsters I overhear. How like are they to the reality-TV shows and dramas by which I normally get to hear and watch them? How like the young of other generations?

Schoolboys on a bus
October, 2013

Four schoolboys
sixteen years apiece
voices not anchored in
baritone or treble
with notes of tenor in between
and alto the nearest thing to home,
chattering of mums and school trips
and makes of mobile phone,
and all around, girls,
talking hair colour and what’s fair
and cutting people in and out of favour.

“I fell over a bollard”,
cries one of our youths,
and bruises and indignities
and ruder possibilities
crash into their minds.
“BOLLard”, cries his friend,
and another makes it “bollARD”
whilst the fourth says,
“Doesn’t sound much of a day so far”.

We are on a tree-thrashed upper deck
sort of flying on the school run into town
in a skimming winter sun
and out of the starling to and fro
one boy finds “lanyard” useful,
and there’s an eruption as though herring gulls
have forayed inland
burly and intent
and scattering sparrows
and any chance of peace.

They chorus poshly now
“LANyard”, says one new aristocrat,
“LanYARD”, says his grander cousin,
and there’s delight, a little awe,
a dash of surprise
as they savour half-knowing more than they thought.

Here is the Navy
hanging whistles or a marlin spike on veined cord
or tethering an ensign to a Jackstaff.

Do these boys get echoes
of youthful command of jolly boats
and raiding parties on hot beaches
under Turkish guns?

Do they get Nelson and Hornblower
the way I do?

I fancy it’s something like that
grand and subliminal.

If it was Cubs and Scouts
and knot-tying for merit badges,
they’d have giggled
and glided away from untroubled childhood
now left half behind.

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Publication date

26 January 2014


RDN's poems