james mcgonigal
Poet  •  Critic

Contact  James McGonigal

       Ghost Academy

Our teachers have gone back to school
to learn to spell the noise of rain,
parse rush-hour traffic, simplify
the third equation of ‘again’.

Here at the Ghost Academy
they try their best to write it right,
to wring from rote old rungs of wrong
untilat lastthe bell rings

and it’s out to the yard to play.
All their old teachers are here too
looking like Fifth-yearscheck out
Mrs McCaigney and Wee Albert
smoking behind the Techie huts.

Then back to class. There are no masters.
Sitting at different desks each day
teaches them how others think. Prayers
are led at noon by a child with hazel eyes.

Afternoons are projects. You can choose
to study anything that fits one palm.
So currently: an apricot, a kilt pin, sweet
chestnuts, a heap of salt, a grasshopper.
Your fingerprints are always part of it.

Our teachers have gone back to school
to learn to count uses of pain,
take a new page and brighter ink
to solve the equations of ‘remain’.

Homework is writing aphorisms.
An example is given on the board:
“The rock, despite its fragility can teach us
how fragile we are.” (Jeff Wall)

So: “The sea, despite its muteness can teach us
how dumb we are.” Or, not quite the same:
“The sky, despite its azure can teach us
what colour o’clock it is.” The hardest thing
sometimes is finding an aphoristic name.

Our teachers have gone back to school
to study maps where landfall ends,
sing choral history in the hall
and tug the hair of their best friends.

Click on the poem title to read the next excerpted poem from The Camphill Wren.