Young poet

12th January 2001 at 00:00
* I bite in.

It explodes like someone who stood on a mine.

Blood. Gore everywhere.

The juice stains my shirt.

The canon fired. I stood in silence with

The cherry in my hand.

The outer skin has peeled away Like the clearing smoke.

The sight struck me like my teeth struck the stone

* The flesh was red and slimy in my mouth

Like the sight of the dead people.

My teeth poked through the skin on the

Other side.

The canon fired.

I dropped the cherry, I had blood everywhere.

The stone dropped.

The ground trembled.

The floor was bathed in blood.

I was on the battle field.

I reached for another cherry To start the memories again.

James Mitchell, 12, Hilden Grange school, Tonbridge, Kent

Like the biblical loss of innocence, this poem starts with a bite. The taste of fruit leads to a transcendent and violent sensuality, impacting as a memory of war.

The poet seems dumbfounded, maintaining a state of dazed innocence throughout, yet memories spray him in blood. James skilfully uses actual experience to counterpoint psychic experience and keeps boh going with great energy.

The repeated phrase "The canon fired" - a metonymic device for war - seems also to indicate the firing of the brain's synapses, the uncontrolled discharge of its stored imagery.

Longer lines halfway through give way to stark, hypnotic statements. Then that uneasy yielding of final lines, where the narrator is hooked equally by the flavour of cherries and their frisson of horror. Cherries will never be the same again.

Graham Mort

James Mitchell receives Strictly Private, edited by Roger McGough (Puffin). Graham Mort is TES guest poet for this term. A freelance writer and tutor, his latest collection Circular Breathing (Dangaroo Press) is a Poetry Book Society recommendation. Please send poems, no longer than 20 lines, to Friday magazine, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Include the poet's name, age and address, the name of the submitting teacher and the school address. Or email: The TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by phoning 01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99.

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