It's funny the poems and quotes and scraps of information that stick in your head from childhood. I used to joke that I only learned three things in school. Now I try to think of the three however it turns out this past year of sleep deprivation has made me forget two of them, so I am down to just one which is how farts move across the room, also known as Brownian motion. It's actually a useful piece of knowledge, but not perhaps what we would hope to be the sum of our schooling.
But I learned more than that of course. Some of my accumulated knowledge I have already passed on to the baby, whispering facts in her ear as I carried her around the parks this summer. The difference between the leaves of a chestnut tree and an oak tree, and conkers and acorns, for example, and that blossom is a precursor to fruit, and pink skies at night are a shepherd's delight, though thinking about it this information may all come from my mum whispering in my ear rather than my schooling.
But there was a anthology of poetry, two anthologies in fact, that we used to use in infant school. I remember little about them except one had a green cover and one a blue cover. And there was one poem in them that used to tickle me. All I could remember about it was it was about a monster of some sort who sat at the back of the class making mischief and no one would believe it was there, but with this scanty knowledge I failed to find it online or in any of my own anthologies, when I tried to find it a few years ago.
Then a couple of weeks ago a friend was telling me about her son who recently learned to read and who read, the other day, a poem from one of her books, called The Marrog. I kept quiet when she told me but I knew, just knew, this was the monster I had been looking for. A search for the poem confirmed it and you know what, it gives me as much joy now as I know it did then.
I had grand plans when I was pregnant, and before, that I would read my baby a daily poem, not for her benefit - I am not concerned about hothousing her in this way - but for my own, as a means to rediscover poetry. I wanted to remember goblins at markets and people not waving but drowning and highwaymen and corners of fields that are forever England. But as I think all new mums find out soon enough, public lectures at art galleries and writing that novel just do not happen and that having a baby does not fit in around your life, but your life squeezes in around theirs.
Nevertheless I try to share some things with the baby - I tell her when a favourite song comes on the radio, I read her sentences from books that I find particularly beautiful. Who knows which lines she will one day remember. But one day, when she is an adult, a chance conversation may lead to her rediscovering something she too loved in the past and then forgot, and she may take as much joy as I have in my own refinding of The Marrog, and that thought itself fills me with great happiness.
(I have tried to contact the estate of R C Scriven to get permission to reproduce this but have not received any reply, so will keep this here until told I am unable to.)
by R. C. Scriven
My desk’s at the back of the class
And nobody nobody knows
I’m a Marrog from Mars
With a body of brass
And seventeen fingers and toes.
Wouldn’t they shriek if they knew
I’ve three eyes at the back of my head
And my hair is bright purple
My nose is deep blue
And my teeth are half yellow, half red ?
My five arms are silver with knives on them sharper than spears.
I could go back right now if I liked -
And return in a million light years.
I could gobble them all for
I’m seven foot tall
And I’m breathing green flames from my ears.
Wouldn’t they yell if they knew
If they guessed that a Marrog was here?
Ha-ha they haven’t a clue -
Or wouldn’t they tremble with fear!
“Look, look, a Marrog!”
They’d all scrum and shout.
The blackboard would fall and the ceiling would crack
And the teacher would faint, I suppose.
But I grin to myself, sitting right at the back
And Nobody nobody knows.