Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nathanael O'Reilly #11 School Days

School Days

Callies, Kallies, Kellies and Kellys,
Jasons, Justins, Brents and Bretts
swamped the school during my years
wearing bottle-green woollen jumpers,
grey trousers, grey shirts, grey corduroy
Levi’s, black Batas and elastic-sided boots.
The Cs and Ks and Js and Bs
controlled the cliques, ruled
over downball, cricket, basketball
and footy, decided Deb Ball
and party invitations, led the bullying
on the courts, on the fields,
in the change rooms, at the lockers,
behind the portables, in the classrooms,
on the bus, at the pool. Whether
you were in or out or somewhere
inbetween was up to the daily whims
of the Cs and Ks and Js and Bs.

After school we rode our bikes
south through town down
the Goulburn Valley Highway
to hang out at the mall scarfing
a buck’s worth of chips doused
with soy sauce, check out the girls
from Shepp High, Grammar
and Notre Dame, even the Kates,
Kristys, Sarahs and Sallys
who shared our classrooms.
On weekends and weeknights
we paid the price of admission
at the skating rink, bowling alley
and cinema, hoping for some
attention. Once we hit sixteen,
our mob of outcasts took to drinking
beer beside the Broken and Goulburn,
staggered from pub to pub on Saturday
nights, attempting to avoid fights,
transcend the rituals and traps of country
town life, survive the final school days
before escaping to the big smoke.


  1. one seriously wonders how we lived to tell such tales

  2. Well, I had the crap beaten out of me several times, but somehow survived to reminisce about it all! Par for the course in a big country town ...

  3. Another fine innovative poem Nathanael, who'd have thought this procession of names and naming could/would trigger such undercurrents .... so much material here.

    1. Many thanks, Jeffree. The poem certainly started with the memory of the names and how all the popular kids seemed to have the same names during my high school years in country Victoria in the 80s. I was also influenced by the way Alan Wearne uses names in his poetry. Sometimes I feel like the teen years have provided enough material for a lifetime of writing.

  4. I think you’ve done a great job with this memoir piece (I know full well how hard it is). The repeated use of those one letter names ("the Cs and Ks and Js and Bs.” and the regular rhythms are done very smoothly.

    1. Many thanks, Magdalena. It's always hard to figure out which personal experiences might be universal, so it's great to hear that I seem to have made a connection (at least with the readers here).

  5. I'm late for making "new" comments about this piece, nevertheless it's an impressive one. The list of names is really powerful and the rhythm you gave is already this escaping to the big smoke!

  6. Many thanks, Beatrice. I spent my last few years of high school waiting in desperation for the move to uni in the big smoke (Melbourne, in my case).