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Published in Seam, 28, Spring 2008




She is my History teacher, suddenly revealed

to be made not of stiff tweed but stretches


of smooth flesh and black Speedo, and she treads

water in the deep end, expecting me to fail.


The Battle Of Passchendaele, The Beer Hall Putsch,

The Break-Up Of The British Empire and now this,


my very own Suez, glassy and unfathomable

as the expression on Miss Brewster’s face.


Every week, between classes, I listen

to the older boys boasting about what they know:


pushing 40 and divorced, she has, they say,

given Neil Parkin a lesson he will never forget.


For me, there is just an initiation to water — 

her hand firm above my waist as I claw forward,


barely breathing. She makes me watch as her legs

describe a perfect ‘V’ under the surface.


But when I try to remember this, shivering

in shallowness, I see only the stuff that lies ahead


with its horrible questions, and the woman

waiting at the other end, ready to swallow me up.


John Mackay


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