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.


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1The Race to Get to Sleep

2Curtains for Gran

3Cousin Lesley's See-through Stomach

4Uncle Ben

5Mr Dahl Supping Soup


7The Lion and the Echo


9The Daft Owl

10Miss Shush

11Someone Stole the...

12Burying the Dog in the Garden

13Mr Ifonly

14A small dragon

15The Nightlight


17The Rose Tattoo

18Geography Lesson

19The Minister for Exams

20Sleep Now

21Little Johnny's Confession

22Come into the city Maud

23Interruption at the opera house

24The Projectionist's Nightmare

25Blake's Purest Daughter

26The right mask

27Into my mirror has walked

28Angel wings

29Sometimes it Happens

30A blade of grass

31The Stolen Orange

32Song for Last Year's Wife

33Simple lyric

34Her Coldness Explained

35meeting again

36The Ambush


38The Armada

39Inessential Things

40How Long is a Man's Life?


Books by Brian Patten