Monthly Archives: May 2017

Gerund

Gerund

A verbal noun.
How can that
Be right?
To do and to be;
Oh dearie me.
Do be do be do;
So sang Sinatra.
But is it fitting,
Is it right?
Are they strangers
In the night,
Weird fusion
Of Plotinus
And Sartre?

One might say
What ails thee,
Knight-at-arms,
Can you not see it?
Are you dazzled
By the light?
This transcendence
All should hail,
For this is it:
The Holy Grail.

I spent nine years teaching English as a Foreign Language (EFL) at a language school in London, so I am quite familiar with the term Gerund.  Before I started teaching, however, I probably wouldn’t have been familiar with it.  One of the problems I had, when I started work at the language school, was that I was woefully ignorant of grammatical terms and functions in general, as – unlike most European countries – grammar was not taught in British schools at the time.  I had to make up for my ignorance by trying to learn, pretty quickly, as much grammar as I could, just in order to catch up, and be on a level playing field with most of my foreign students.  It took quite a while before I started to feel more confident in teaching English Grammar, and I encountered difficult classroom situations on the way, when the ability to bluff came in useful.  I still vividly recall a tortuous session when I was grilled on the nature and function of the Subjunctive, by an aggressive, blonde-haired German student.

Some of my EFL memories came back to me when I was working on the above poem; but it is intended merely to poke a bit of playful fun at the potentially paradoxical nature of the Gerund.

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Serendipity (Haiku)

Serendipity

Serendipity
could be synchronicity,
said Wolfgang Pauli.

Serendipity
and my upturned glass of beer.
A drenching. Oh,dear!

Serendipity
and my half-full cup of tea
forever haunts me.

It fell through the air,
onto a head with no hair.
I fled to my lair.

Serendipity;
a word of five syllables,
but no miracles.

I was a teacher of EFL (English as a Foreign Language) at a language school in central London – just off Oxford Street – for a period of nine years in the 1980’s.  One lunchtime, without really thinking what I was doing, I threw a half-full cup of tea out of the window of my room on the first floor.  Seconds later, I heard a cry of rage, and looked out of the window.  The contents of my cup of tea had landed on the head of one of the busy lunchtime shoppers walking below.  The man, who appeared to have a completely shaven head, looked up, saw me looking down at him, shook his fist in anger, and shouted some incoherent swear-words at me.  At this point, the reality of what I had just done finally dawned upon me.  I realised the man was almost certainly going to enter the building and come looking for me, with vengeance in mind, so I took evasive action, and hid in the nearest available toilet.  When I emerged, ten minutes later, and timorously returned to my room, one of the secretaries had scribbled a message on the whiteboard: A MAN CAME IN, LOOKING FOR YOU.  BROWN LIQUID WAS DRIPPING FROM HIS HEAD.  HE SAID, WHEN HE FINDS YOU, HE’S GOING TO KICK YOUR ARSE.

I’ve tried to write poems about the incident, without success, over the years.  It would probably work better as a short story.  Last week I was in a pub with a friend one lunchtime, and inadvertently knocked my glass of beer all over him.  It reminded me of the incident all those years ago, and I suddenly realised that one way of writing about it could be in the form of Haiku – two lines of five syllables, enclosing a middle line of seven syllables.  The poem above is the result.

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