Helen Perry

Ghazal IX - Childhood

Our class saw Challenger explode that January
Ms Smythe's old hands shielding eyes that January

She pulled the plug, hung the cord from the trolley
And wheeled the equipment out of the library

I sat in my plastic chair feeling guilty
Iconic shirt captioned Gagarin, Yuri

“Well, that went down badly,” I observed blithely
Ms Smythe stopped in the doorway, shoulders weary

Shame, shame for my snipe at a teacher of science
Who first showed my eye a telescope's glory

“Look to your feet to know Earth's simplicity;
Look to the stars and dwell on its mystery”

What is that odd bile that curdles young blood
Cleaving hearts with disdain, what strange chemistry?

Is it fear of the seer who knows where she's from,
To stardust returned, smelling faintly sulphury?


Helen Perry is a British writer and journalist based in Cyprus.