This is one of several poems I have adapted from my 1976 chapbook, "Toxteth," a long autobiographical poem about my early days in Liverpool. The book received some kind words in a review from Tony Cooney in the old T.O.P.S. magazine in the late 1970's. Does anybody know if Anthony Cooney who published the mag out of The Old Police Station in Lark Lane (thus the name T.O.P.S.) is still around?
Prize Conker: Rose Lane School, Liverpool, 1963
I exhibit the monster conker secretly in poetry class,
and bets are laid for the lunch-time tournament,
Toby Cash, in a reverie, oblivious to our whispers,
paces the room, delivers an impassioned recitation
of Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman," spittle white
at the corner of his mouth as he booms the verses.
As Toby relates the bloody tale, all I can think of
is my prize conker, battle-ready, vinegar-
hardened, pierced and knotted to the end
of a lace from my football boot. I long
to see it, one by one, smash every conker
in the school, in the city, the entire world.
But--thwack!--Toby's cane smacks my desk;
he snatches the conker and hauls me to the front
of the class. He forces my arm out straight.
Another swish of the cane, and pain crumples my hand.
Mr. Cash drops my prize conker into his drawer,
and he locks my hopes away with a jangle of keys.
Christopher T. George