03 May 2015

Sitting in front of us, laughing

                                      by Kate Tempest


The boys have football and skate ramps.
They can ride BMX
and play basketball in the courts by the flats until midnight.
The girls have shame.

One day,
when we are grown and we have minds of our own,
we will be kind women, with nice smiles and families and jobs.
And we will sit,
with the weight of our lives and our pain
pushing our bodies down into the bus seats,
and we will see thirteen-year-old girls for what will seem like the first
       time since we've been them,
and they will be sitting on front of us, laughing
into their hands at our shoes or our jackets,
      and rolling their eyes at each other.

While out of the window, in the sunshine,
the boys will be cheering each other on,
and daring each other to jump higher and higher.


We wander into school, happy children;
kind and bright and interested in things.
We don't yet know the horrors of the building.
The hatred it will teach. The boredom it will bring.

Soon we'll learn to disappear in public.
We'll learn that getting by is good enough.
We'll learn the way it feels to see injustice,
and shut our mouths in case it comes for us.

We'll learn to never think but copy blindly,
To ally with the mean and keep them near.
We'll learn to not be talented or clever,
and the most important lessons
for success in a career:

How to follow orders when you're bordering
on nausea and you're bored and
insecure and dwarfed by fear.

From Kate Tempest, Hold Your Own, 2014. Winner of the Ted Hughes Award for Poetry.

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