from EARLY DAYS
Then we have to go back again. On Monday.
My Dad is putting his bike into the shed.
I don’t think I’ll bother going back, I say.
He sits on his heels and looks at me. Back where,
he says. School. Oh and why’s that he asks.
Well, to be honest, it isn’t very interesting.
He starts roaring laughing and so do my Mam,
Aunt Angela, Uncle John. I don’t understand
but it makes me angry and confused.
You just have to knuckle down, he says, ruffles
my hair and takes a wrapped sweet from his pocket.
When they’ve gone inside, I squat on the hot concrete
and grind my knuckles into the ground.
I learn nothing from this except that it hurts.
Why tell me something that makes no sense?
When you learn to read, everything changes forever.
Now I am not in the room if I don’t want to be.
Now I can have a dog, a rich father and mother,
we can have a car, apple trees, a stream in the garden.
Now I can be in other places where everything comes out right.
Where men have horses and guns and swords
and the boys are always winning their fights. The sun shines
and when it rains there are big log fires and mugs of cocoa.
There are rivers for catching fish and high mountains to climb,
long trips by train through fields of corn, dark forests, or journeys
by sea, these I like best of all, with the wind howling
and all the sails big and white and full of the wind
and the boy is brave, he steers the ship by the big wheel
all through the storm with the Captain by his side
and never once, not even once, is he afraid.
And it isn’t all made up, like the stories my Dad reads out to me.
I can read about stars, jungles, dinosaurs, other countries
and what grows there, what people do, what an orchestra is
and what makes an engine work, the names of places —
India, Russia, China, Japan — where people wear clothes
that are different from ours and where they eat strange food.
Maybe best of all is that I remember what I read. It all goes on.
When the clock is moving so slowly, when I’ve done my sums
and I’m staring out the window, fidgeting and trapped,
I can be back in yesterday’s book, riding my pony with cowboys
or driving a race car or hiding from pirates in a cave and,
if Miss Coffey doesn’t catch me dreaming, free as a seagull.
Theo Dorgan was born in Cork, Ireland. He is a poet, novelist, non-fiction author, translator, editor, and documentary scriptwriter. Author of seven collections of poetry, these poems are taken from a collection in progress that interrogates childhood. He is a member of Aosdána, Ireland’s academy of the arts.