Something screeches in the distance, 

a sound like nails on a blackboard I remember from school 

and a board rubber as it flew in my direction, shot put 

from Mr Shaw’s ire, for some imagined misdemeanour. 

The careers teacher never did like me, 

in my pleated mini skirt, grey-white shirt 

and earnest attention. I wanted to be an air stewardess but

he put paid to that, with his six foot ruler and casual

tongue. You want to clean up vomit all day? He said. One crass,

ill-thought through comment, with no offer of an alternative,

left me flailing, drowning in the chalk dust disgorged

from the flying eraser, shifted the goalpost that had grounded me 

in aspiration, nothing left to keep me rooted or give me

direction. I was lost in a pother without a compass.

My guiding star extinguished and I had nowhere left

to go. The rug under my feet got pulled, along with any esteem

contained in that singular ambition, the one thing that set

me apart from the dullards, who would end up

at the local factory. I wanted to see the world not just my own backyard 

and here I was, sent to my room and as usual

I had no idea what I’d done wrong. 

There was something in my face, in my manner 

that others took a dislike to, churned something up 

in them, that got hurled in my direction to take me 

down a peg or two. Whatever it was,

I got the brunt end of it. I packed the tears

into my pencil case along with my pens 

and crushed hopes. I picked up my dowdy satchel, put a steel rod 

in my back, locked my face forward and as I wrung my innards out, 

like an old dishcloth, so my eyes would not betray

the hurt inside and secured my mouth

in the off position, so words 

would not give away my shame, I walked blind

away from the taunts that I knew would ring

around my ears, the moment the teacher turned his back.

I flunked my exams, left school without the aces I thought

I’d need for the good life that was now over and went to work for Tesco

to stack shelves and prove right all the naysayers. Humiliation

hung around me like a cloak, kept a fog over my eyes until

one day, the kernel of another idea took root. I was still blind 

but blind faith is a misnomer and I had it

in spades and true to form it guided me out of the classroom

never to look back and brought me to this place that I am today.