“What’s your name boy?”
Demanded the tweed-clad, German-speaking, paunch-bellied Deputy Headmaster into whom I had just collided on my first day at Grammar School.
His voice echoed around my head and the polished wooden corridors of the faux Elizabethan academe I would come to call jail.
I served five years of a life-sentence there.
“Parker, Sir” said the ever-shrinking, leather satchel laden mouse at Trum’s feet.
Why Mr Roslyn was called Trum, the mouse would never know.
“Parker, eh?” boomed the Teutonic Trum – “We know all about you.”
His words silenced the river-rushing sounds of the other boys flowing through the corridors,
With verbal spikes he nailed the mouse to the spot,
The spot which became the mouse’s Golgotha, to which he would return ad infinitum.
“What do you know about me?” begged the mind of the mouse.
“What can they know about me?” thought the boy of 11 years as he refused to give up tears.
The elder mouse can still smell the fusty tweed, still feel the button imprints on his flesh,
To this day he wipes blood from the nails with handkerchiefs as big as sails.
In years to come, when his brother skulked the same corridors and portals,
the teachers would say, “chalk and cheese”
of the shared DNA.
They would utter the same name and say with ease “chalk and cheese, chalk and cheese”.
What could those pedagogue gods profess to know, to comprehend, to understand of that boy?
How could they know what he himself did not yet know?
Could they see the coal in his seams, that ran through Roy, John, Arthur and from them, on into his veins?
Would they feel the steam from Henry’s Somerset train, and hear it call him home?
Could they hear Bartholomew’s sheep, while walking through a Devon field?
Would they weep, at an unmarked keep where the soil hides the truth of a hero’s death?
What could they have known? They knew nothing! Nothing, if not less.
They tried to name the mouse that day – “and from this day forth his name shall be failure, for he is legion and born of the wrong class.”
But they failed.
And yet in wronging, they were right, because I am legion, I am many and strong in name.
Six letters cannot, will not my character define, no matter what the letter of the law
A surname, one legal appellation; I have so, so many more.
Ask Rosalind Franklin to unfurl me, so that she might find
A list of teachers who taught me to fight, to love and to be kind.
Matriarchs to whom I owe so much, forgottten not, in me they stay,
The apron-clad potters of my youth, unnamed moulders of my clay
Their work-worn hands, calloused, yet tender in all their parts,
Tired cardigan shields, schooled me in the finest arts,
Titles appended and certified, their duties required no more,
It is in their name that this mouse roars.