We learned poetry off by heart, ready
For reading in front of the English class,
Embarrassed and awkward, nerves unsteady,
Scared witless, shaking, hardly bold as brass.
We didn’t learn it because we liked it,
We learned it for fear of the leather strap,
Mr Agnew was poised for a swift hit,
Forgotten stanzas meant a hefty slap.
But schoolboy robots though we may have been,
Absorbing poems wasn’t too absurd,
The pay-off decades later can be seen,
Surprised that I remember every word.
Now, poems are a joy I understand
Without the fear of strap lines on my hand.