I got up on the wrong side of the day
and came right off. It walked away
showing the whites of its eyes."Stop,"
I said,"I mean to get on top
of you." It kept on going;
I followed, knowing
days don't always do
exactly what you'd like them to.
"Stand still," I said, "I'm going to try again."
I thought I heard it neigh a little, then
It kept on walking, while I stood there talking.
"All right," I said (it sounded like a threat),
"I'll see you later." But I haven't yet.
Michael Laskey, TES Friday's guest poetry critic for this term, writes: Usually when I work in schools I ban rhyming altogether because of the sense- and syntax-wrenching that it leads to, but here's Tim Evans handling it like Wendy Cope. And in couplets too, which I particularly warn would-be poets off because of the stress they lay on the rhyme words. So how does he do it? The language is perfectly natural, the word order quite unforced, and he's managed that by using a variable line-length so we're not counting beats and trying to predict the rhyme.
It's witty too. It plays with cliche with the sophistication of Roger McGough. We assume he's going to tell us how hegot out of bed on the wrong side, and the first line conveys that, but it also turns the day into a horse that, in the traditional comedy sequence, he mounts, only to slide straight off the other side. Those "whites of its eyes" are working hard too, implying danger but they're also making fun of him, rolling with contempt as the horse walks away. Then the use of the line-ends could hardly be bettered: the end-stopped "Stop" and the desperately determined enjambment of "on top of you".
Tim Evans receives Strictly Private, edited by Roger Mcgough (Puffin). His poem was submitted by John Clogan. Michael Laskey founded the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival in 1989 and was its director for 10 years. His most recent collection, The Tightrope Wedding (SmithDoorstop), was shortlisted for the T S Eliot prize. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, and include the poet's name and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgThe TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by phoning 01454617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99.