“Wanker” Marchbanks – Keith Chandler

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
2002 Crabbe Memorial Competition – Third Prize
Adjudicator: Rodney Pybus

“Marchbanks. Old ‘Wanker’. Remember him?”
Tilting the bubbles on my nose, I leer
and nod. Among the half-remembered list
of bullies, fools and semi-paedophiles
we have in common, the Old Boy opposite
and myself, something about that name…
The atolls of lager froth begin to clear.

Wasn’t he the one – white-haired, thin, nervous
brought in to teach us… was it Physics? Maths?
Back in the “Upper Fourth”. Bottom set.
Acid-ringed benchtop. Bunsens. Stink of gas.
Sinks like urinals. Shafts of milky dust.
Long tanks (or was that somewhere else?)
of flaking dead-eyed dogfish. And our lot

laughing, unteachable, swaying back
on the bar stools, making faces, noise…
I can see it now. Poor man, he tried so hard
(such st-t-tuttering courtesy)
to teach us something. Newton’s laws.
Ohm’s theory. Basic mechanics. Bravery.
He even set a weather station up

(something about “pressure”) in the yard…
We used to stare in silence at his flies;
in a fluttery “Old Wankers” voice
answered him back; when he turned to write
calculating the parabola of flight
gobbed at his back. His final class:
Checking the rain gauge late one “Doubel Sci” –

cupping it preciously he poured it out,
windfall extraordinary, with hands that shook
into a beaker. Like what’s in this glass –
piss yellow. Tilt sniff. Then that look of hurt
splashed on his face and labcoat. Was it tears
sleeved from his cheek-bone? Left after that.
“Happy days! Another? No? Well… Cheers!”

Copyright © Keith Chandler 2002

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