This poem was inspired by a conversation in the classroom about needing to have a sense of "completion" in life, even in such small moments as ticking off names on a list. It is influenced, too, by a reading of Carol Ann Duffy's "Mean Time", and shares some of that book's staccato phrasing, its in-depth enquiries into the apparently trivial.
The list (I like the pun in the title) becomes a metaphor for routine, fulfillment and achievement. The poem seems to question these qualities while also managing to celebrate them (they are described as better than chocolate or lager). The "margins" we work in may be "cold", "dull" or "polite", but in "the final accounting" something remains: creativity, insight, risk-taking; a job well-done, which this poem certainly is.
for Ms Higgins
Hoover up, Clear out.
Dull monotony waits to be marked off.
But leave the task registered, Let the achievement stand.
This isn't chocolate Or lager or empty desire.
It's better than that.
This is fulfillment.
We do "this" without thinking, Sans analysis.
Tick off the hours, the seconds passed.
The events that happen.
The thoughts which are done.
Let it be set down, Let there be lists, For the final accounting.
Polite columns against a cold margin, Neat ticks In ball point pen.
From this we judge.
Amie Staples, aged 17, receives "Emergency Kit", edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber). Submitted by Delia Higgins of Dukeries Community College, New Ollerton, Newark, Nottinghamshire, who receives a set of Poetry Society posters with teacher's notes. Please send students' poems to 'TES' Young Poet, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Anthony Wilson is Poetry Society poet-in-residence for primary education, and the author of 'How Far From Here Is Home?' (Stride) and co-author of 'The Poetry Book for Primary Schools' (Poetry Society) Bouquet of the Week is given in association with Marks amp; Spencer. Names, please, on a postcard - and why - to Sarah Bayliss, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY