Classroom Exercise

By Kieran Beville

A shaft of light thrust from behind a black cloud
through the classroom window like an angelic sword
and a galaxy of chalk-dust particles danced in its blade.
Swirling atoms, colliding like a new world forming.
I imagined one of them splitting –
protons and electrons spinning –
and the school being vaporised in a mushroom cloud
like the one the master spoke about
before he banged his duster on the board.
Our necks had turned like sunflowers
to the golden window, towards the fields
where we longed to play.
But the stern clock said, “tut, tut, tut…”
as the hours wilted away.
Our heads drooped to parched copybooks that soaked ink in essays about
‘What I want to be when I grow up.’
Nibs scratching!
Every one of us had to read aloud
the desired professions, humble trades, careers
and the wild ambitions.
Pete wanted to be a priest but a speeding chariot
took him to heaven, “like Elijah,” his mother said.
We thought of Ben Hur and Charlton Heston
but later learned the driver was a drunk from
Ballinacurra Weston.
Tony wanted to be a soldier like his dad
and to die for Ireland like Pádraig Pearse.
We envied Cyril the stevedore
who looked down on all but the astronauts
for whom the sky was not the limit.
We laughed when Liam chose librarian,
as he never read a book.
There was a docker and a doctor,
a tabernacle of bakers, a babble of barbers,
a flood of plumbers, a sample of salesmen. From amongst that class of scholars
a trip of hippies emerged.
And I wonder how many of us
became what we wrote about that day.


Kieran Beville is author of Write Now – A Guide to Becoming a Writer (Limerick Writers’ Centre, 2019) and the novel, Bohemian Fire (pen-name Austen K. Blake, Bohemian Books, 2017). He has published 15 non-fiction books and has had a substantial number of articles published in various international newspapers, journals, and magazines, as well as poetry in Cyphers, Crossways, A New Ulster, Ogham Stone, The Stony Thursday Book, The Sunday Tribune, The Galway Review, Live Encounters and Pandemic. His collection of poetry, Fool’s Gold, was published by Revival Press (2019). Beville writes a weekly Features Column for the Limerick Leader, focusing on local arts and entertainment. His book, Pulling Back the Clouds, is a short biography of Mike Kelly, collector of the die-cast model aircraft display at Shannon Airport (LWC, 2020). His second volume of poetry, Soul Songs, was published by Revival Press (2020). Beville’s third volume of poetry, Voices from the Void, will be published in April 2021 by Revival Press.  

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