They’re known as ‘A’ levels, a test, a tilt
at adult standing, competition’s prize.
The young are safely gathered into rows
in a stuffy hall whose intermittent sounds
shuffle a wavering path round echoing space.
Teacher, invigilator, padding round,
believes (he really does) in love-of-learning
(that afterthought in education’s screeds),
but knows, in ten weeks’ time, he’ll map them out,
two A’s, three B’s. My pass rate. My results.
The pupils, concentration’s ants, scratch on,
minute by minute, in the silent hall.
Someone has just forgotten Darcy’s name.
Someone remembers, panicking, the steps
by which Othello’s wrought to jealousy.
The past two years included shafts and rays
of insight, happiness, the learning thing.
They’ll go now to their colleges, while he
recalls the mornings when the classes’ track
stumbled on unexpected grains of joy.
Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet who taught English in high schools for over thirty years, and creative writing in higher education for a further twelve. His poems have been published widely in Britain and the United States, including San Pedro River Review, Constellations, and Verse-Virtual.