Schools, serpents, and sins
All things bright and beautiful
We plough the fields and scatter
Do you remember singing those words as a child
when God was bound in a school hymn book
with a peeling spine and ink-blotted pages
and the teacher played wrong notes on an out-of-tune piano
in a draughty hall with carved wood panels on the walls,
silver cups in glass cases and grave governors
staring down at you from dark oil paintings,
and how, when a truant child sneaked in late,
the wafting smells of disinfectant, Ibcol toilet paper,
and overcooked cabbage gave them away?
Do you remember wondering,
between your giggles and daydreams,
what God had thought about
when working his purposes out
if school teachers were the result?
Then you’d remember the apple with a bite out of it
turning brown and gathering wasps under Miss Stokes’ desk
and the way she hissed knowledge at you like a serpent,
to feel the stirrings of a vague concept immediately lost
amidst the final amen, scraping chairs, and school bells.