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Green Pencils, Pens

by Robyn Radcliffe


Primary school produced
a menagerie of playground fears
aggravating our mostly innocent
propelling the classroom forward
as a microcosm of classicism
a myopic lens leering
at our unformed understanding of things

Before we even graduated
from green pencils to pens
before we learnt to stroke
paper thin lines with cursive flair
we were imprinted with prejudice
the pre-ejaculate to the impregnation
of hate

We steered clear of the “Afrikaans children”
perceived as a burden
our cultured coloured Alma Mater
embarrassed by these skollie wanna-bees
holes in their grey pants knees
snot-noses in winter
humour off kilter
mouths littered with
swear words
no filter

We were popular or nerds in grooming
drinking out of Ceres juice boxes
unnerved, trading sandwiches
cut into triangles
they were roff en omberskof
and we assumed, kind of doff
the repulsion/fascination
push/pull magnetism
kids were kids but lines were drawn
ball-point in blue
written in scorn

Before talk of the birds and the bees
buzzed through the soccer field
and knee-high skipping rope jumps
their brown (Afrika)ans skins
like ours and our kin
the language lilting easily
to us – a sting
before all of this branded them
as unsweet
a bitter label
they were not invited to eat
at the English table