Treasure Island

Raj Arumugam


My English Teacher Was Wooly-Headed


(1)
There’s one thing I must get off my chest
that’s bothered me now
even 50 years on
with the passage of time –
my English teacher then
she always told me when I grumbled
homework was too difficult,
she’d tell me: “That’s a piece of cake”
And I’d go home discombobulated how
anyone could eat paper
or homework
and she said this not once, but every time:
“It’s a piece of cake”


(2)
And my parents and I looked at it
every which way and from every point of view
and concluded in our Perfect Ancient Native language:
“This English teacher is a loony. She is wooly-headed.
She is the lamb Mary lost, silly and muddle-headed.
How can homework be a piece of cake?
Anyway, we don’t eat cake – we eat samosas.”

(3)
And yet the English teacher would put her nose
up in the air
and remonstrate: “It’s a piece of cake! ”

Oh yeah, would you like tea with it?

Now, my parents, bless their Ancient Souls,
have gone on into the next world
And I’m left wondering about the secret madness
of that English teacher
who’d ask me to eat cake when I expressed genuine concern…

Well, my parents have passed on, as I said,
and I’ve moved on
as is plain and radiant to see
to master idioms and vocabulary
Punctuation, the catenative verb and Usage;
and, as for that wooly-headed English teacher,
I’m sure she’s moved on into
a comfortable nuthouse
where the staff makes her eat her cake,
and make her think she can have it too -
cos that’s what they do to nuts, and such instances

(4)
And now that I have got that off my chest,
I can comfortably resume memorizing
Volume 3 of theOxford Dictionary
as I perambulate
and copy 100 entries from Fowler’s “Modern English Usage”
as I victulate
which is all part of my nightly ritual
since she told me to do so some 50 years ago
(cos I happened to look at her Union Jack knickers
when she sat high on the table, and I stood up erect
cos that's what they made us do in the cinemas)
- and that helps to put me into a state of dormancy, to hibernate
till the sun ushers in a new day for me –
and a new cake for that wooly-headed English teacher,
she, I can presume with certainty,
elegantly reposed and superannuated


Now, I’m glad I’ve got this off my chest
and mastered my idioms and phrases
and I can go eat my samosas

Submitted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013
Edited: Tuesday, July 16, 2013

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Poet's Notes about The Poem

- don't you think the teacher was mad? - and by George! - I'm as sane as King George 3...?

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