Epitaph of Innocence




Broken desk
Chipped piece of wood
Class-room stars for being good. 


Window-pane of broken glass
Playground overgrown with grass.
Wood-weeded patch
Shed-doors with a shattered latch. 


Slime on the roof and fractured ceiling
Distempered walls and paint that's pealing. 


    A disjoined epitaph unfurled
   To an innocent lost world
   Expectant dreams, their parents' joy
   A memory that will never cloy. 


Learning, books and literary pride
A rusted globe where continents collide 


The class-clock has stopped at ten to something
To what?
The hour-hand's gone missing. 


The teacher's chair, three-legged and worn
The yard-tarmac's cracked
But not for long.
Soon it will be a shop's foundation -
A step to cultural degradation. 


The chalk-scratched goal-post of a football game
Leaf-sheltered corner with a climbing-frame. 


    But scribbled on a toilet-lid
   The names and price of girls that did
   Allow the boys to look at their private
   For just a tanner - little Joanna
   Would strip quite bare
   And fart.
   While Molly Moores would drop her drawers
   For a bite of pie and
   A custard tart. 


    Carol Brown for half-a-crown
   Did what no scribe had dared write down
   Sweet Sylvia O'Neill would scream and squeal
   In mock of adults' lustful zeal
   She was the playground's queen
   Of things that really were obscene -
   For popularity not pay -   
"Shag-bag O'Neill" is what the schoolboy writers say.


Among the artichokes and onions
Boys fought in fistic-imitation
Of what they themselves had seen
In father's boxing magazine. 


Marbles, catch and jacks
Frisbees-thrown and bubbles-blown
Have left no record of their own. 


By the roller on the mud-stepped lawn
With its tattered top half-shorn ....... 


            Come child
           Stop looking at those things
           Relics of a time we do not need to know.
           Come child
           Granny wants us home to tea
           And Grandad has some things to show
           Of what they did today.
           Let the past rust
           In its own dust.
           Away with me
           Please come. 


Your name's Sylvia
And you were born O'Neill.

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