+ Test Anxiety? Here’s a Poem About “The Examiners”

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The editors of the Times Literary Supplement (in London) selected eleven poems by various authors, and printed them anonymously on June 8th, 2007.  Readers were invited to vote for their favorite.

The results of the TLS/Foyles Poetry Competition are in: Paul Groves’s poem, “The Mauve Tam-0′-Shanter”, is the winner.

But the runner-up was “The Examiners”, by John Whitworth.  Whitworth is the editor of “The Faber Book of Blue Verse”, which was reissued  last year as “Making Love to Marilyn Monroe”.  Here is the poem:

The Examiners

Where the house is cold and empty and the garden’s overgrown,

     They are there.

Where the letters lie unopened by a disconnected phone,

     They are there.

Where your footsteps echo strangely on each moonlit cobblestone,

Where a shadow streams behind you but the shadow’s not your own,

You may think the world’s your oyster but it’s bone, bone, bone:

     They are there.

/

They can parse a Latin sentence; they’re as learned as Plotinus,

     They are there.

They’re as sharp as Ockham’s razor, they’re as subtle as Aquinas,

     They are there. 

They define us and refine us with their beta-query-minus,

They’re the wall-constructing Emperors of undiscovered Chinas,

They confine us, then malign us, in the end they undermine us,

     They are there, they are there, they are there.

/

They assume it as an impost or they take it as a toll,

     They are there.

The contractors grant them all that they incontinently stole,

     They are there.

They will shrivel your ambition with their quality control,

They will dessicate your passion, then eviscerate your soul,

Wring your life out like a sponge and stuff your body down a hole,

They are there, they are there, they are there.

/

In the desert of your dreaming they are humped behind the dunes, 

     They are there.

On the undiscovered planet with its seven circling moons,

     They are there.

They are ticking all the boxes, making sure you eat your prunes,

They are sending secret messages by helium balloons,

They are humming Bach cantatas, they are playing looney tunes

     They are there, they are there, they are there.

/

They are there, they are there like a whisper on the air,

     They are there.

They are slippery and soapy with our hope and our despair,

     They are there.

So it’s idle if we bridle or pretend we never care,

If the questions are superfluous and the marking isn’t fair,

For we know they’re going to get us, we just don’t know when or where,

     They are there, they are there, they are there.

                                                                         John Whitworth

source: TLS article by Mick Imlah on 7/13/07

tutoring in Columbus OH:   Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021   or  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com

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