Back to School

In the first week of childhood’s September,
going back to school was unreal,
when I discovered a new sense of smell:
I inhaled new uniform, shoes and plimsolls,
and the scent of sharpened pencils in satchels.

I breathed stale lost property masked with polish
from parquet floors of classrooms and the hall;
chalk-free blackboards and bare pastel walls;
blank exercise books and lined paper in reams,
waiting for fresh ink, essays and poems.

I sniffed pungent autumn in the air,
the promise of leaves and conkers everywhere,
the early creeping in of tea-time and gloam,
when cocoa and buttered crumpets steamed
on the kitchen table when we got home.

Kim M. Russell, 14th August 2018


My response to dVerse Poets Pub Poetics: Back to school, also linked to Imaginary Garden with Real Toads Tuesday Poetics

Amaya reminds us that, in mid-August, American children are back at school – and the UK isn’t far behind at the beginning of September. She says every year when backpacked kids return to the sidewalks and yellow buses fill the streets, she can still hear the bells ringing down the crowded halls, smell pencil cases and reused textbook pages.

Amaya is interested in the images and senses that fill our minds when we think back to our school days; whether there is a particular lesson that still stands out today as the pinnacle of our primary education; whether we have a teacher who made all the difference; or any embarrassing or hilarious moments that we couldn’t forget even if we tried? She is asking for seemingly minor details associated with particular classmates or classrooms. She has also shared a poem by Shel Silverstein about playing hooky.


53 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. Conkers. there is that word again! I love it. You make the beginning of school such an adventure. Alas, I hated school. I cannot find the idyllic words so many do. the best stanza is when you get home. This is truly lovely and everything I like about the fall.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “Stale lost property” is very good, Kim, as is the whole of your poem, answering perfectly the prompt which I found challenging after all consideration. I tried to remember something, anything specific a teacher said but came up blank. It’s more about the essence of school and I could relate to yours and your images even an ocean away.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Such a joy to get a peek at our poet’s school days; with our worldwide family. Always sad to hear that some did not like school–they were the best days of my life (hug for Toni).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Details galore of all the essentials for a good education, especially the new things (with there smells). I was that way too. Start of school meant new shies, shirts, and pants. Your school picture shows a large class for one teacher. I counted thirty-five. If you were in the picture it would be nice for us to have a glimpse. One last, our fourth grader here starts again tomorrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Wowww! ❤ This is so lovely Kim 😊 You have captured perfectly the smells that kids pick up the most i.e. “plimsolls, and the scent of sharpened pencils in satchels.” ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Your poem is half a world away, but it still has so much in common with California. It seems era is more important than place: that photo looks just like the class pics from my childhood.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. All very Enid Blyton….my favourite childhood books.You know I think there is a real need for revival of this kind of children’s literature . I think you could easily whip up a book along these lines. Just sayin’.
    There has to be a horse in it called Dobbin and scones with strawberry jam and cream:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My childhood wasn’t very Enid Blyton at all; I come from a working class South London family whose father was more often than not out of work. My school clothes were all second hand, although my grandmother knitted all my jumpers and cardigans..
      My first novel, Joe and Nelly, is about a boy who returns from evacuation in Wales during the First World War to find his home flattened and the little girl next door sitting on the only remaining part of the house, the front door steps. She is not what she seems to be.


  8. Love this! I also loved your comment on my Marengo Years and will answer it in a bit…but I have a question for you 🙂 What is a plimsoll?
    And oh my….cocoa and buttered crumpets sound much better than Oreo cookies after school! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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