The budding poet soon suspects
The pointlessness of: Solve for x
The budding poet soon suspects
The pointlessness of: Solve for x
We sprang from a primordial soup
Of RNA and cosmic goop
We breathed through gills and swam in schools
Among the depths and rocky pools
Bedazzling, streamlined, clad in scales
Propelled by tails with fins for sails.
Until one day, so goes the lore
We cast a fishy eye to shore
And surfed the tide across the sand
To where the water meets the land.
Not ones to walk, we lacked technique
All thanks to our unique physique
But in the end we found our feet
Soon after, gills were obsolete.
Yet, Evolution is perverse
And sometimes throws it in reverse…
For, now we’ve waterparks with slides
We snorkel, sail and scuba dive
We swim with dolphins, live on boats
And show our small fry how to float.
Tots splash in puddles with delight
While summer’s one long water fight
Still, others love the touch of rain
But when asked Why? they can’t explain.
We left a world now out of reach
The day we clambered up that beach
The price of such a compromise?
This constant need to moisturize.
Randomly flicking through the TV channels I happened upon a show called Child Genius, a programme whose aim is to discover which children in Britain have never been allowed to climb a tree, drink Fanta and make friends their own age. Contestants range in age from 8 – 12 in Earth years and from what I gather there are only two eligibility requirements: they must dress like Puritans and manage their own hedge fund. As for the parents, alas, there are no rules otherwise these same kids would be attending birthday parties and dancing to K-pop.
One distinctive family comprised Calliope (the child genius), Octavia (her overbearing mother), Peregrine (her hipster father) and 4 year-old twin brothers, as yet unnamed.
“We’re waiting for a Labour government first because then the whole ordeal will be less traumatic for them,” Peregrine explained.
“Watch out for the fat one – he’s a biter. He ate three of the gerbils in my control group,” Calliope warned. “Octavia, it’s 3 o’clock.”
Interviewer: What happens at 3 o’clock?
“I give Calliope her feed.”
Interviewer: Her what?
“She’s still on breast milk,” Octavia stated matter-of-factly, now fumbling underneath her burka. “Excuse me for a minute. I’m afraid these are more form over function.”
Interviewer: I was going to ask you about that, actually. Isn’t that a Peperami in your bag?
“Oh, I’m not Muslim,” she grimaced. “I don’t even believe in God. It’s more of a statement.”
Interviewer: Got it, but getting back to the feed: are you telling us that Calliope has lived on nothing but breast milk since she was born?
“Oh, no. I add my own juices to it as well.”
[viewers stopped eating at this point]
Interviewer: Please, God, tell me we’re talking about lemon grass.
“I have a juicer for vegetables and fruit,” Octavia confirmed, “but I also have all their placentas in the freez-“”
It was a shame really because Calliope seemed like a nice kid who wasn’t bothered whether or not she won Child Genius. Octavia, however, was on a mission. After years of subjecting her first born to stem cell shakes and hyperbaric chambers, this TV programme would vindicate her once and for all. After all, it wasn’t about the children; she was the true genius and, by her own calculations, Calliope only needed to make it to Week 4 before TV producers and the viewing public realized this. After that it would be book deals, speaking tours and Oprah.
Interviewer: Calliope, do you have any regrets about coming onto the progreamme? Did you ask to come on it?
“To be honest, I’d rather be doing something else,” she wrinkled her nose.
Interviewer: Playing with your gerbils?
“Gambling online. Every minute I’m in this stupid studio I’m losing money.”
Interviewer: I beg your pardon?
“My game’s Poker. Last night I was about to beat the bubble until my Aces got cracked. I ended up folding faster than Superman on wash day. I looked like a total fish,” she rolled her eyes.
Interviewer: Uh, okay. So you won’t be going to Oxford then?
“Oh, I’ll be going to Oxford,” she arched an eyebrow, “but it won’t be Flash Cards I’ll be playing with, if you catch my drift.”
Interviewer: How will you balance gambling with your studies? And is it even legal? You’re too young to gamble, aren’t you?
Calliope discreetly opened her Frozen II pencil case to reveal a wad of crisp one-hundred dollar bills. Drawing one out, she folded it expertly with one hand until she’d fashioned a small fish, which she handed to me.
“Why don’t you go buy yourself something pretty and leave the legal stuff to me? After all, who’s the genius here?” she asked, morphing from Girl Guide to Al Capone before my eyes.
Interviewer: What about your mother’s plans for you?
“Octavia’s seeking validation but it can’t come through me. Her insecurities stem from a lifetime’s inability to rise above her own mediocrity. The whole breastfeeding thing’s a manifestation of it: she believes she’s passing on matriarchal wisdom when she pumps that junk which, for the record, I pour straight down the drain. I prefer a single malt – it keeps me clear-headed.”
Interviewer: Won’t she be disappointed though?
“When isn’t she? Look, do you want me to wrap this up nice and neatly for your viewers at home? Give them my take on life?”
Interviewer: Please, do.
“Okay, here we go… in life, you need to play the hand you’re dealt. If you don’t like the dealer, switch tables and if you don’t like the odds, switch games. Then again…” she said coyly, throwing a piece of popcorn into the air and catching it in her mouth, “I’m just a kid, so what do I know?”
The rule for fractions when you’re young?
It’s two-thirds’ brains
And one-third tongue
The new teacher entered the classroom and took her seat, greeting no one. Perpetua Tightwaters was having a bad day but her deportment made it impossible for the students to tell because she held only one expression in her armoury: disapproval. A fierce-looking woman with grey-blue eyes which devoured their prey whole, she could scan an entire school assembly at a glance over horn-rimmed glasses designed to gore enemies at close range. Thick, silvery hair which still held its lustre was meticulously hoovered up into a tidy bun, giving her the air of a grande dame of the Bolshoi who had long since exited the stage, but not the company. A smooth complexion required only a light touch from a modest palate; it was only her mauve lipstick which strayed into the adventurous, considered redundant by many because her lips were permanently pursed until they parted to issue a summons, reprimand or decree.
Perpetua Tightwaters loved crosswords, hated skateboarders, still bought her meat from the local butcher, donated to the Red Cross by direct debit, considered pet ownership overrated, knew her brother-in-law had a drinking problem before he did and stopped listening to Engelbert Humperdinck the day the singer made a joke about the Queen Mother during a live interview on Radio 4.
Alert and self-assured, she made few demands of others and expected the same courtesy in return, preferring discretion at all costs. During her morning commute into the city, Perpetua remained vigilant lest she should drop her guard for even a moment and, in doing so, make eye contact with a fellow commuter just bursting to talk about his gifted toddler’s progress at Junior Montessori. She had nothing against the public, she simply regarded them much as she did junior royals: odd-jobbers whose pivotal role might one day involve organ donation. In an increasingly unrecognisable world where meat was murder, Drag Queen Storytime had replaced Show & Tell and a pope had wavered ever so slightly on the question of married clergy, Perpetua Tightwaters chose to anchor herself in work, God and country for everyone’s sake.
In her opinion, social distancing wasn’t overkill.
It was overdue.
We sent the students home today
And then wrote off the year
Agreeing we would all downplay
The panic and the fear.
The younger ones all whooped and cheered
As soon as they were told
Then out the door they disappeared
To watch events unfold.
The seniors nervously dispersed
First, shell-shocked, then resigned
This endgame they had not rehearsed
Would leave some friends behind.
Worse still, I had no lesson plan
No academic text
No clever quote from some wise man
To say what might come next.
I struggled with this year’s goodbyes
But didn’t let it show
Instead I joked and signed their ties
And let them call me Bro!
Throughout the revelry we knew
The world was not the same
Our balanced lives were now askew
And we were not to blame.
But you can’t keep a good kid down
When they’re up for the fight
And as I watched them rally round
I knew they’d be alright.
The proof came when I reached my car
That’s when my vision blurred
In foam they’d written Au revoir!
Then What’s the French for NERD???
Rapunzel’s prince betrothed his love
Her freedom he was wishing her
Alas, he could not climb above!
(she’d used too much conditioner)
A friend of mine who used to teach
Said some kids he just couldn’t reach
A situation made more grim
For they were learning how to swim
While teaching a class of 12 year olds, one student asked about the origins of life.
[For the record, she was supposed to be conjugating the present tense of avoir]
“Can you narrow it down a bit for me?”
“Well, something had to start something so what started everything?” Lucy wondered.
“It’s a kind of Chicken & Egg Theory question, that one.”
“What do you mean, sir?” she persisted.
“Whenever we contemplate the origin of anything we often ask Which came first: the chicken or the egg? Some questions we just can’t answer. Well, not yet anyway but I think we’re getting closer.”
Lucy stared at nothing in particular but I could see her wheels were turning.
“And now I’ve confused you,” I laughed.
“Only because you’re confused, sir,” she stated, as respectfully as possible. “The answer to the Chicken & Egg Theory is easy. Chickens are birds. Birds are descendants of dinosaurs. Dinosaurs didn’t give birth to live young but laid eggs, therefore the eggs some dinosaurs laid eventually evolved into chickens through a process called speciation.“
A colleague once told me, “The best thing about being a teacher is that we are, indeed, the smartest people in the room.”
Some days I’m not so sure.
I’m Mr Ormsby and thank you very much for dropping by.
Each of us has our own guilty pleasures: Chocolate Blackout Cake, slot machines, staying in our pajamas all day, seeing a stranger walk into a lamp post, etc.
Mine is words. Whether I’m at work or walking the dog, words are constantly ricocheting around my brain. For example, whilst writing this I’ve been wondering what the word is for that little piece of plastic on the end of shoelaces.
[for what it’s worth, we call it an aglet]
Sometimes I like to chew words and blow bubbles with them just to see where they land. At other times, I’ll painstakingly place them in regimented rows where they’re not allowed to move until given the order. Most days, however, I rely on words as ammunition in a world where I’m increasingly expected to explain my actions to others. And I must admit that it’s during these encounters when, for me, the fun begins. This is especially true when the occasion calls for returning swimwear without the receipt or spicing up one’s court testimony.
And so, this blog.
However before we continue any further, some context…
I recently started teaching in a new school so I haven’t had time to get to know everyone. On top of that, it has been pointed out to me more than once that I have replaced a very popular member of staff who left “before he was ready to go” (I don’t even want to know). This, now I’m only guessing here, might explain the slights I received in the form of gifts from my Secret Santa: a Yankee candle (they’re fully aware I’m Canadian), a voucher for 10 free tanning sessions (I’m ginger) and Maltesers (choking hazard). It’s the anonymity, of course, which is the appeal of Secret Santa but if I had to wager money on it I’d ascribe these unpleasant undertones to Jerry, our racist librarian.
Needless to say, I now keep the small talk to a minimum when checking out books.
In my blog you’ll find humorous poetry, vignettes, characters and outrageous word play along with the odd sober moment. And you can join me in my quest for the perfect rhyme because to me, and you purists are going to hate this, poetry needs to rhyme. Well, mine does anyway. I mean, could it be worse reading free verse?
See what I just did there?
(they hate that)
In any case, dear Reader, I hope I make you laugh ’til you fart.
P.S. Here’s an online interview with yours truly, if you’d like to know more:
March 19th, 2021
I grew up in Toronto where upon graduating university I landed a job as a copy editor for a legal publisher. The work was poorly paid and mind-numbingly forensic with no room whatsoever for any creativity; we were basically word accountants. Upping sticks, I moved to the UK where I’ve ended up teaching high school. It can be a tough gig some days but the kids are insanely creative and there are always lots of opportunities for laughs with them. Often what I hear during the day inspires my writing.
What is your greatest accomplishment as a writer so far?
My greatest accomplishment to date would be starting my blog and sticking at it. I wrote loads when I was a kid, edited the newspaper at university and almost went into journalism so writing’s definitely in the DNA. And then finally, I got off the pot and started my blog. To date, I’ve posted a collection one publisher has called ‘eclectic’- it’s a mixture of humour, horror, poetry, prose, essays and opinions – which has attracted an equally eclectic readership. I’m proud of my efforts and honoured that others consider it worth reading.
Why do you write?
I guess I’ve got lots to say. Sadly, few of us are gifted orators and writing offers me the chance to get my points across without being interrupted. I’m not a very brave sort but when I write I become a superhero who’s unafraid to pull out the creative big guns and tackle anything. I use different styles and voices I wouldn’t normally get away with at home or at work; it’s very liberating being a homicidal demon one moment, then a camp Martian in hot pants the next.
What is your writing process? (Any favorite places to write? Any interesting quirks, traditions, or rituals you may have? How many times might you revise something before being satisfied with it? Besides you, does anyone else edit your work? etc.)
I’m writing this on a laptop with my dog snoring next to me on the sofa. Years ago I used to rise early at weekends and write until noon, after which I spent the rest of the day making revisions. These days, however, I can write day or night. I’ll often write and then take the dog for a walk so I can mull it over without seeing it. Usually by the time we’ve returned home I’ve ‘pictured’ what I need to do and make the necessary changes. And I revise constantly, often searching days for the right word until I find it. It sounds tedious but not for me because I love hunting them down, day and night. For me, constant editing is essential because I rarely do anything right the first time.
Do you have anyone (friends, relatives, etc.) review your works before you publish them?
As more friends read my blog they’re becoming braver with their criticisms which is invaluable when it comes from those you trust. They’re catching everything from typos to non sequiturs which is surprising because a lot of them were raised outdoors.
Could you give us an idea of your upcoming works without spoiling anything?
My blog contains the prologue of The Abomination which revolves around the First Nation peoples of Canada, the Church and a lot of cultural rituals we perform without knowing it. It’s a thriller and I’ve written about half of it so far. Right now I need to kill a character to further the plot and I can’t bring myself to do it. I would have made a terrible vet.
What do you hope to achieve as a writer?
I would like every one of my students to have to read my work and then sit a three-hour exam on it. That would be poetic justice after having had to read all of their stuff over the years. Other than that, like most authors I simply wish to become widely-read because I’m not writing a diary. That’s it, really.
What advice do you have for novice writers?
Write about what you know and research what you don’t know before writing about that. And don’t be intimidated because someone’s already covered what you were going to write about – what you have to say may spin the whole thing on its head. In this life, we have few opportunities to break rules without ending up before a judge; writing has no rules except those you impose upon yourself, so impose as few as possible and go for it.
What do you feel are the most important resources a writer can use?
Honesty: draw ideas from all around but don’t take what doesn’t belong to you.
A decent vocabulary (or a thesaurus): make every word count because the readers deserve it.