When George Fox Smiled At Me

Louis Hemmings
Just before lights-out at
the Quaker co-ed boarding school, the rugby master confronted me
(I being one of four amorous accomplices, caught in a dark third form room by the all-seeing torch beam and gruff accent)
after Sunday evening assembly.)
I defended myself with
the advocacy of inclusiveness and spiced my reply with cheek, ignorant of the proverbial
soft answer that turneth away wrath - so, that's how I carne
to find myself shoelesss
on the cold gravel, my stomach seconding for the master's personal punchbag, having priviously been pushed down the stairwell in rage-
(George Fox, intercede for me now in this my hour of need!)
Minutes passed before the forced apology was uttered, this pacifist learned another painful lesson from a different book: 'be sure - your
sin will find you out.'
Awake all that night,I became a philosopher's pupil, quaking with indignation
at the injustice, scorning
the headmaster's lofty lectures.
Even though term's end
was just one week away I got the first train home next morning ... only to be returned the same night by my mother. After amateur psychoanalysis in the headmaster's study
I walked into the dark dorm to a chorus of cheers:
I the first boy to run away; all amazed at my adventure
of how the headmaster saw his son onto the same train I got
and how they made the rugby master squirm by not answering where I was that morning. Eventually that master apologised and from high up on the Assembly hall walls the oil-portrait
of Arnold Marsh winked at me and in my mind George Fox benevolently smiled - and all was right with my world,
at least for another short while.
Page 75, Poetry Ireland Review Issue 29