scientia potentia est by Sarah MacKenzie

I went to a posh school,
Located in a leafy street near an iconic water tower and the woods.
A magical place where I believed
the tower was filled to the brim with clear water and men
would scale it with ropes and ladders
to scoop out the magical liquid and water the neighbourhood.

Next to it was a proud, upright building full of proud, upright teachers.
A neat straight field that we were forbidden to step on,
confined instead to the unyielding concrete playground.
I would press my face against the cold railings and gaze at the tower,
set against a backdrop of trees who cradled this
majestic beacon in their verdant arms.

Inside, the wooden desks were grouped neatly and regimented pupils sat
waiting to recite the numbers and letters that wove the colourful, intricate
threads of the patterns
we conjured with our chanting.

One day, the teacher left the room and then returned with a lanky boy,
stick thin with glasses, unravelling sleeves and vulnerable trousers.

We glanced up from our books momentarily.
Then jolted backwards as he slammed into the desk.

Then he hit another and I saw his stricken face as he bent double
over my desk and heard him gasping
for air like a bludgeoned fish.

I changed that day.
I realised something about our proud, posh school.
It was white.
He was black.


Sarah MacKenzie is an English teacher and Assistant Principal at a sixth form college. She lives and works in Stourbridge in the West Midlands.

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