Among Sixth-Formers

St Andrew’s RC Secondary School, Glasgow

They sit there, eager, young and bright,

two wanting to be teachers, one

a doctor, while the fourth describes

his goal to be a journalist.

At their age, I was stoned or pissed –


today I’m just a tie and suit

who in their pert eyes must appear

a bland old bore, whose accent means

he’s (a) English and (b) can’t know

the pressures they’ve defied, but though


it was madness to believe we might

discover a common language or

an interpreter able to translate

with empathetic clarity

me to them and them to me


yet how could I fail to be inspired

by finding hope here, amidst their grey

resentful home estate which wants

its offspring back, whose rules they flout

even by dreaming of breaking out


to solid, legal, long careers,

to marriages which last, to kids

who’ll laugh at them for being so straight,

to lives unlocked from drugs and crime –


to safer ways to serve their time,

the guilt of such a thought being mine.

First published in Snakeskin 247, January 2018