Image by Caroline Forbes

Poem introduction

I left school when I was fifteen, and when I was fourteen there was this very wonderful teacher who covered his classroom in maps, and he always said when he retired from school, he would go to certain places on these maps. The poem's called 'Geography Lesson'

Geography Lesson

Our teacher told us one day he would leave the school
And sail across a warm blue sea
To places he had only known from maps,
And all his life had longed to be.

The house he lived in was narrow and gray
But in his mind's eye he could see
Sweet-scented jasmine clambering up the walls,
And green leaves burning on an orange tree.

He spoke of the lands he longed to visit,
Where it was never drab or cold.
And I couldn't understand why he never left,
And shook off our school's stranglehold.

Then half-way through his final term
he took ill and he never returned.
And he never got to that place on the map
Where the green leaves of the orange trees burned.

The maps were pulled down from the classroom wall;
His name was forgotten, it faded away.
But a lesson he never knew he taught
Is with me to this day.

I travel to where the green leaves burn,
To where the ocean's glass-clear and blue,
To all those places my teacher taught me to love -
But which he never knew.


from Juggling with Gerbils (Puffin Books, 2000), copyright © Brian Patten 2000, used by permission of the author.

Books by Brian Patten