Ray Mather



‘S cool, man,                                                                                                              
It’s the best,                                                                                                             
Gotta keep your interest.                                                                                           
Talkin’ is the name of the game                                                                                  
And if you wanna play                                                                                               
You gotta speak the same.                                                                        
‘S cool, man,                                                                                                              
Understand me if you can.                                                                                         
P.E.’s bad,                                                                                                                 
Maths is vile,                                                                                                             
I tell you, man,                                                                                                          
Maths aint my style.                                                                                                   
Art’s a doddle,                                                                                                          
R.E.’s a doss,                                                                                                             
Gotta show’em who’s the boss.                                                                                    
'S  cool,man,                                                                                                               
It’s the language they wanna ban.                                                                              
Science is grotty,                                                                                                     
Drama’s dead good,                                                                                                   
History I’d skive, if I could.                                                                                     
English is ace,                                                                                                          
French is a bind,                                                                                                       
I’d love to leave this class behind.                                                                             
‘S cool, man,                                                                                                              
‘S all part of my masterplan.                                                                                
Miss is magic,                                                                                                           
Sir’s a pain,                                                                                                               
Head’s a wally, Librarian’s plain.                                                                               
Dinner’s are skill,                                                                                                      
Homework’s a drag,                                                                                                   
I’m tellin’ you school aint my bag.                                                                               
School, man,                                                                                                             
‘S cool.

First published in “SCHOOL’S OUT”  OUP UK 1988 ed. John Foster


Remember Me?                                                                                                         
I am the boy who sought friendship;                                                                          
The boy you turned away.                                                                                         
I the boy who asked you                                                                                           
If I too might play.                                                                                                   
I the face at the window                                                                                           
When your party was inside.                                                                                     
I the lonely figure                                                                                                    
Who walked away and cried.                                                                                    
I the one who hung around,                                                                                       
A punchbag for your games.                                                                                      
Someone you could kick and beat,                                                                             
Someone to call names.                                                                                              
But how strange is the change                                                                                   
After time has hurried by,                                                                                         
Four years have passed since then,                                                                           
Now I’m not so quick to cry.                                                                                      
I’m bigger and I’m stronger,                                                                                     
I’ve grown a foot in height.                                                                                       
Suddenly I’M popular                                                                                               
And YOU’RE left out the light.                                                                                  
I could, if I wanted,                                                                                                
Be so unkind to you.                                                                                                  
I would only have to say                                                                                           
And the other boys would do.                                                                                    
But the memory of my pain                                                                                        
Holds back the revenge I’d planned                                                                          
And instead I feel much stronger                                                                              
By offering you my hand.   

First published in “ANOTHER FIFTH POETRY BOOK”  OUP UK 1988 ed. John Foster

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On and on                                                                                                                 
Through the snow we run                                                                                          
Puffing and panting                                                                                                  
It’s not much fun                                                                                                      
Over the fence                                                                                                         
And into the stream                                                                                                   
Mouths obscured                                                                                                      
By commas of steam                                                                                                  
Trainers soaked                                                                                                       
Shorts splattered with mud                                                                                       
Freezing to death                                                                                                     
“For your own good!”                                                                                                
Plodding along                                                                                                          
Mile after mile                                                                                                          
Under the gate                                                                                                         
Over the stile                                                                                                            
Legs like jelly                                                                                                           
Feet like lead                                                                                                           
Wet hair slapping                                                                                                     
Against the forehead                                                                                                
Defying the cold                                                                                                       
For just under an hour                                                                                              
Before burning to death                                                                                           
In a scalding hot shower!

First published in “Another Fourth Poetry Book”  OUP UK 1988 ed. John Foster


James and I                                                                                                             
Fell out this morning;                                                                                                
Nothing else matters.                                                                                                
The teacher is talking                                                                                               
But I don’t hear,                                                                                                       
Giving out exam results,                                                                                            
But I don’t care.                                                                                                       
Rain lashes the window –                                                                                           
I forgot my coat –                                                                                                     
Even the weather is against me.                                                                                 
The bell rings.                                                                                                          
We go to the next lesson.                                                                                          
He goes with the crowd,                                                                                           
Laughing too loud.                                                                                                     
I go alone.

First published in “KNOCKOUT POEMS”  LONGMAN UK 1988 ed. John Foster


Who invented homework?                                                                                          
What is it all for?                                                                                                     
I already do enough in class,                                                                                     
Why give me any more?

When I get back home                                                                                              
I want to be free;                                                                                                    
I just want to put my feet up                                                                                    
And watch a little T.V.

I work hard all day                                                                                                  
And deserve a rest,                                                                                                  
If they give me so much to do                                                                                   
How can I do my best?

I’ve heard all their excuses                                                                                      
And I think they’re poor:                                                                                          
“You need to study on your own” –                                                                            
What on earth for?

My dad has a job                                                                                                      
Working in an office all day,                                                                                     
If work was waiting for him at home                                                                          
I know what he would say!

But . . . there is just one thing                                                                                    
That might change my point of view                                                                           
And that’s if they paid us overtime –                                                                         
Wouldn’t that suit you, too?

First published in “School’s Out”  OUP UK 1988 ed. John Foster


Similes are as hard as hell,                                                                                       
Metaphors are a swine!                                                                                             
“Be original,” the teacher says;                                                                                 
He doesn’t have a brain like mine!

All last night I worked like a slave,                                                                          
Over hot coals I toiled,                                                                                            
Only to find at every turn                                                                                        
My efforts all were foiled.

If ever I am lucky enough                                                                                        
To find the images I’m seeking,                                                                                
I’m sure I would be top of the class                                                                         
- comparatively speaking!

First published in “School’s Out”  OUP UK 1988 ed. John Foster


I wish to God that I could be                                                                                   
Like Peter Perfect in 9C;                                                                                          
He’s loved by all,                                                                                                     
Nobody loves me.

He’s captain of cricket and rugby, too;                                                                     
He scores more points than me or you.                                                                       
When it comes to sport,                                                                                            
I haven’t a clue.

In English and Maths he’s top of his set,                                                                   
The brightest thing you’ve ever met.                                                                          
He’s a genius,                                                                                                           
While I am wet.

His art work’s won him high renown,                                                                         
He had an exhibition displayed in town.                                                                    
With a paintbrush                                                                                                     
I’m the class clown.

He’s never had a spot on his face.                                                                             
His hair is never out of place.                                                                                   
He’s always smart,                                                                                                   
I’m a disgrace.

The girls go weak when he’s in sight.                                                                          
He dates a different one each night.                                                                         
I try so hard,                                                                                                           
But do nothing right.

I wish to God that I could be                                                                                   
Like Peter Perfect in 9C.                                                                                          
To be loved by all                                                                                                     
. . . and not be me.


Hurry home, don’t be late!                                                                                        
Don’t stay in the yard or talk at the gate!                                                                  
Don’t forget the Green Cross Code!                                                                           
Don’t go to the shops, don’t cross the main road!                                                        
Come straight back, don’t make me wait!

Hurry home, don’t be late!                                                                                        
Don’t take chances, don’t tempt fate!                                                                       
Don’t cross the fields, don’t go to the brook!                                                            
Don’t climb trees, don’t push your luck!                                                                     
Come straight back, don’t make me wait!

Hurry home, don’t be late!                                                                                        
Don’t want you hanging about with a mate!                                                                
Don’t stop to play football in the park!                                                                      
Don’t wander about till it gets dark!                                                                         
Come straight back, don’t make me wait!

Hurry home, don’t be late!                                                                                        
Don’t forget that you’re still only eight!                                                                    
Don’t dawdle, delay or play silly games!                                                                    
Don’t fight other boys or call them names!                                                                 
Come straight back, don’t make me wait!

Hurry home, don’t make me wait!                                                                               
There’s so much trouble on this estate!                                                                      
The world is full of so many dangers!                                                                       
Hurry back home, don’t talk to strangers!                                                                 
Oh, how I do hate                                                                                                    
You being late!


What fun! It was great!                                                                                            
You should have seen her face!                                                                                
She didn’t half look a mess . . .                                                                                 
There was egg and flour all over the place.                                                              
Everyone was howling –                                                                                            
They didn’t think we’d dare –                                                                                   
But Darren held her down                                                                                        
While I ground the eggs in her hair.                                                                          
All half-dozen I used                                                                                               
Till the yoke dribbled right down her neck.                                                              
Then we emptied the packet of flour –                                                                     
Boy, did she look a wreck!                                                                                        
We could hardly stand up for laughing                                                                     
As she staggered like a drunk down the street.                                                         
When it comes to having a giggle                                                                               
Daz  and I can’t be beat!

All the way home I was burning.                                                                               
People laughed, pointed and stared.                                                                           
“A bit of fun” THEY called it –                                                                                  
I thought fun was something you shared.                                                                  
I’ve never felt so embarrassed                                                                                 
Didn’t know where to hide my head,                                                                           
Tears were streaming down my face,                                                                         
I wished that I was dead.                                                                                          
I thought that mum would be mad -                                                                           
Her jaw dropped and her eyes opened wide –                                                           
But when she saw how upset I was,                                                                           
She cried and cried and cried.                                                                                 
We washed my hair three times over                                                                         
But couldn’t get rid of the slime;                                                                               
It was too painful to brush or comb,                                                                         
It wasn’t right for a long time.                                                                                  
My blouse was covered in grease                                                                              
And as I got changed we found                                                                                
There were cuts and bruises everywhere                                                                  
From being held down on the ground.                                                                        
The bruises, the cuts and the stains                                                                          
Will eventually all go away.                                                                                      
But the shame and the anger remain;                                                                         
I’ll NEVER forget that day



I’m not talking to Julie,                                                                                            
Anna’s not talking to me.                                                                                           
Sarah’s talking to all of us                                                                                       
But nobody’s talking to Lee!

Lee told Julie that Anna                                                                                           
Still wets her bed at night;                                                                                        
Julie told me and Sarah,                                                                                           
I told Anna – that started a fight.

Lee said her mum told his mum                                                                                  
When she took the cat to the vet;                                                                              
His sister, Abigail was listening,                                                                               
She said Anna’s mum was upset.

Anna called Lee a liar                                                                                               
And blamed him for spreading the tale.                                                                     
I blamed Julie, who’d told me;                                                                                  
Julie blamed Abigail.

Anna’s mum’s not talking to Lee’s mum                                                                        
And the atmosphere in class is cool.                                                                          
Anna brought a note to the teacher;                                                                          
We’re all staying behind after school.



The fear that rules the school                                                                                  
So damaging and cruel                                                                                             
A devastating tool                                                                                                    
Making someone feel a fool

Singling out and sullying                                                                                           
The worst kind of bullying                                                                                        
Don’t do it

It’s just a bit of fun                                                                                                 
(As long as you are not the one)                                                                                
And so easily done                                                                                                   
A clever crack or pun                                                                                               
And the joke will run and run

Singling out and sullying                                                                                           
The worst kind of bullying                                                                                       
Don’t do it

Silly plays on names                                                                                                 
Inability in Games                                                                                                    
Lists of fabricated claims                                                                                        
Snide suggestions and blames                                                                                   
All add petrol to the flames

Singling out and sullying                                                                                           
The worst kind of bullying                                                                                        
Don’t do it

From teacher’s mocking moans                                                                                   
To student’s sneering groans                                                                                     
Humiliating tones                                                                                                      
Words are like sticks and stones                                                                              
And hurt as bad as broken bones


It’s been a rather difficult year
We’ve not always seen eye to eye
He has an unfortunate attitude
His sights are not set too high
It seems he’s content to plod along
And never to do his best
I can’t remember the last time
He showed any interest
His handwriting is appalling
I can hardly read a word
And some of the things he says in class
Are frankly quite absurd
He can’t take any criticism
Gets aggressive and starts to shout
Yet he’s always first in line
To dish the comments out
It would help if he got organised
He always arrives in a rush
His clothes look like they haven’t been ironed
His hair’s never seen a brush
It’s important that he understands
The impression he is making
If he really wants to get on in life
He has to do some stocktaking
It would help if he would listen
Follow instructions to the letter
But, no, SIR never listens to anyone
You’d think teachers would know better!


Pauline Wilcox is my girlfriend;                                                                                
She’s written my name on her rough book –                                                                 
Pauline 4 Jason                                                                                                        
Is what she wrote.                                                                                                    
We’ve been going out now                                                                                        
For fourteen hours, twenty-three minutes and eleven seconds,                                  
But I’ve not kissed her yet.                                                                                       
You may wonder what it is                                                                                        
Attracts me to her                                                                                                    
Most boys go on about her brace                                                                              
“Jaws” they call her.                                                                                                
Others say she is skinny                                                                                            
And flat-chested  . . .                                                                                                
But me?                                                                                                                    
She has a way                                                                                                          
Of making my knees go funny                                                                                   
And my insides dance                                                                                               
Quite by chance                                                                                                       
I look up from my desk                                                                                             
And catch her                                                                                                          
Smiling at me.

First published in “Knockout Poems”  LONGMAN UK 1988 ed. John Foster


I gorra sestificat Wensdy                                                                                        
Mum wuz ded pleezed                                                                                              
Fust fing ive ever wun at skule                                                                                   
I went brite red wen me name wuz cawled out in assemberley                                    
I carnt member worrit wuz fer                                                                                  
I fink it wuz fer spellin


Rachel’s mother has recently written                                                                        
Her letter is pinned over there                                                                                 
Rachel’s father has been very ill                                                                               
And has been moved to Intensive Care                                                                      
The doctors are fearing the worst                                                                            
That he hasn’t much longer to go                                                                               
So mother thought it important                                                                                  
That staff who teach Rachel should know                                                                 
Rachel’s a sensitive child                                                                                          
And is likely to appear upset                                                                                     
But don’t be over-protective                                                                                     
As she’s not fully aware just yet                                                                               
Oh, before you go to register                                                                                   
I’ve one more thing to say –                                                                                      
We’re clamping down on the wearing of jewellery                                                     
And the campaign begins from today



Whenever I think of Glen                                                                                         
I will remember when . . .                                                                                          
Shirt out, breathless, late from lunchtime break,                                                      
He would arrive at my door seemingly out of sorts;                                                   
His red face, urgent, excusing his mistake,                                                               
“You can’t hear the bell on the tennis courts!”

Whenever I think of Glen                                                                                         
I will remember when . . .                                                                                         
The register was called and it reached his name                                                       
Too busy talking he didn’t even stir.                                                                          
The class went quiet and in mock shame                                                                    
He bowed his head and smiled, “Oh, soz, sir!”

Whenever I think of Glen                                                                                         
I will remember when . . .                                                                                         
A voice called out from the back of the class                                                            
And I demanded to know which of them had sinned                                                  
The answer arrived and was shouted out en masse                                                    
“It was Brammel”  . . . and Brammel grinned.

Whenever I think of Glen                                                                                         
I will remember when . . .                                                                                          
One Saturday night when I was out for a meal                                                         
Musing over the menu wondering how much to spend                                                 
Glen greeted me with a delighted squeal:                                                                  
“It’s Mr Mather!” like I was a long lost friend.

Whenever I think of Glen                                                                                         
I will remember when . . .                                                                                         
A lad with a laugh and a lust for life                                                                        
Joined my tutor and, for a year, shone.                                                                     
He was loud and funny and sharp as a knife –                                                           
Now he is gone.


Exam time                                                                                                                 
Maths test                                                                                                                
Clock clicked                                                                                                            

Knew nothing                                                                                                           
Heart sank                                                                                                               
Words swam                                                                                                             
Paper blank

One hour left                                                                                                            
Sir said                                                                                                                    


You know you like her really                                                                                     
So why put up a fight?                                                                                             
You know we all expect you                                                                                      
To walk her home tonight                                                                                          
Won’t you even dance with her?                                                                                
Look, she’s starting to cry                                                                                         
Go over there and ask her out                                                                                   
Stop pretending to be shy                                                                                         
Promise we’ll not laugh or jeer                                                                                  
If you give her a kiss                                                                                                
Go on, get over there                                                                                                
It’s a chance too good to miss

What? She said get lost?                                                                                          
That’s a bolt out of the blue!                                                                                     
Honest, mate, it wasn’t a joke,                                                                                  
I could have sworn she fancied you


Brittle as first frost,                                                                                                 
Maggie’s relationships.                                                                                              
Moods changing quicker than an April sky,                                                                
With always the distant rumble of thunder,                                                               
The tense crackle of static.                                                                                      
Approach Maggie warily                                                                                            
At each new meeting;                                                                                                
Tread carefully,                                                                                                       
Slowly, testing the ice.                                                                                              
She may need to hug you                                                                                           
Or burst into tears;                                                                                                   
She may need to joke                                                                                                
Or scream vile abuse!                                                                                                
Expect no sorries,                                                                                                     
No cosmetic language –                                                                                             
When Maggie speaks                                                                                                  
It’s straight from the heart.                                                                                       
When, at last,                                                                                                           
You think you know her,                                                                                            
She’ll disappear                                                                                                        
Like smoke in the wind.                                                                                              
Only Maggie knows what she is feeling:                                                                     
Never controllable,                                                                                                   
Never predictable.                                                                                                    
Child of a “difficult situation”,                                                                                  
Born of anger and frustration.


 I’m a litterbug and I don’t care,                                                                                
I throw my litter everywhere.                                                                                    
Crisp packets, sweet wrappers, lollipop sticks –                                                         
In desks, on the yard – the usual tricks.

I’m not bothered where my rubbish goes;                                                                   
Let it be carried where the wind blows.                                                                     
Playing-field, garden – it’s no sin –                                                                            
Couldn’t care less about the litter bin.

I trash the playgrounds and dirty the parks,                                                              
Stuff cans in hedges – them sort of larks.                                                                 
The street is my empire; it swims in debris;                                                                
It looks ugly to you, but it’s lovely to me.

Where did I come from? What is my game?                                                               
Me, the person you all like to blame?                                                                         
What do I look like? Well, I’ll have to be true –                                                        
I’m not a monster – I’m YOU, YOU and YOU


Can I                                                                                                                         
Those things                                                                                                             
That I                                                                                                                      
Struggle with                                                                                                           
In school                                                                                                                  
I can’t

I can’t                                                                                                                      
Because I’ve tried                                                                                                     
And I                                                                                                                        
Do it

Do it                                                                                                                         
The teacher says                                                                                                       
And the class                                                                                                            
And watches                                                                                                             
I don’t

I don’t                                                                                                                      
Want to                                                                                                                    
And be                                                                                                                      
Seen to                                                                                                                     
I can’t                                                                                                                      
Can I


Peter chewed pencils because of his friends                                                             
He nibbled the points and he chomped on the ends                                                    
He gnawed at the wood with all of his might                                                             
Becoming addicted to the taste of graphite

He graded the pencils for thickness and length                                                         
Preferring 5B for their extra strength                                                                      
He munched them in Maths and he ate them in Art                                                      
Sucked them in Science till they fell apart

He couldn’t stop chewing, was totally hooked                                                            
Till it had an effect on the way that he looked                                                          
His habit had built up to sixty a day                                                                          
His tongue was all black and his skin had turned grey

He went to the doctor feeling quite sick                                                                    
His stomach was churning, his head felt so thick                                                       
“Say, Aaah!” said the doctor, “Do open wide . . .                                                         
My goodness you look like a pencil inside!”     

“What got you into to this ridiculous game?”                                                              
"’Cos,” Peter replied, “My mates did the same.”                                                           
In pencil, the doctor scribbled notes furiously                                                          
Peter’s mouth watered, “It’s that a 5B?”

“Get on the couch and remove your shirt”                                                                   
The doctor tapped lightly, “Does this hurt?”                                                               
He listened to his breathing, took an X-ray                                                                
Then turned to Peter in a solemn way

“It’s graphite-posoning – of that there’s no doubt                                                      
Still, I feel it’s my duty to point something out . . .”                                                    
The doctor leaned forward and gravely said,                                                            
“It seems to me, Peter, that you’re easily lead”



I wish each day was Wednesday                                                                               
Instead of once a week                                                                                             
We have Drama in the morning                                                                                   
For two lessons after break

Miss thinks I’m great at Drama                                                                                   
I got a double “A”                                                                                                     
And I’m always first in line                                                                                       
When she’s casting the school play

I wish each day was Wednesday                                                                               
It’s beefburger and chips                                                                                         
The friendly dinner ladies                                                                                        
Always give me heaps

Straight after dinner it’s Games                                                                                
And I’m pretty good at that                                                                                       
I’m brilliant with a ball                                                                                             
But even better with a bat

I wish each day was Wednesday                                                                               
We only have one homework                                                                                      
And as that’s Humanities                                                                                           
It’s research or read a book

And when at last I’m home                                                                                         
It’s the best night on T.V                                                                                           
So, I’m very fond of Wednesdays                                                                             
As you can plainly see



Look at the boys
At lunchtime in the yard
Pinching all the playground
Trying to act hard
Playing with their footballs
Taking all the space
Or rushing round in gangs
All over the place

Watch while the girls
Are forced to the side
Linking arms and laughing
Happily occupied
Exchanging all their secrets
Revealing what they doubt
Or combining together
To help each other out

Observe how boys and girls
Are different when they play
Notice the contrast
In what they do and say
Question: Why do boys always
Compete or have to fight
While girls seem naturally
To share and unite?



School, late afternoon
Eyes play in the fields below
Ears strain for the bell



A silent classroom
Enter Billy’s blackened eye
The grateful class roar


Of some distilled idea
It may be nurtured and watered
In the search for a truth
Or with weed-like secrecy grown
In some corner of the brain
The poet doesn’t begin 
With structure, form and tone
It’s in the volatile solution
The bare essence of the thought
That words, stripped to the bone
Become 70% proof 
Like the spirit of some grain
Or vegetable or fruit
It could be about anything
Love, hate or war,
The beauty of nature, what is life for  . . .
But will be delivered like a baby
Steaming, screaming to the page
Demanding of the world – ENG
Of some distilled idea
It may be nurtured and watered
In the search for a truth
Or with weed-like secrecy grown
In some corner of the brain
The poet doesn’t begin 
With structure, form and tone
It’s in the volatile solution
The bare essence of the thought
That words, stripped to the bone
Become 70% proof 
Like the spirit of some grain
Or vegetable or fruit
It could be about anything
Love, hate or war,
The beauty of nature, what is life for  . . .
But will be delivered like a baby
Steaming, screaming to the page
Demanding of the world – ENGAGE


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Watch out! Words are on the loose
And run at random round the yard
Don’t try to catch them – it’s no use
Herding them up is far too hard
Demented kids, they chase around
They prance all over the place
Their sound and fury can’t be bound
It’s pointless giving chase
Just watch their frantic activity
How they clap and clown
Wonder at their creativity
And wait till they settle down
Listen to their lust for life
And enjoy their eager energy
The sound of language running rife
In the playground of poetry



Sticks and stones
May break my bones
But words will hurt me more
They eat away my self-esteem
Dull the light of my inner beam
And make me question what I’m living for



You’re Billy-no-mates!
A bimbo! A Bastard!
A Berk!
Watch what you blurt
Words Hurt

You’re an old Codger!
A Crackhead! A Chicken!
A Chav!
Watch what you blurt
Words Hurt

You’re a Daft Donkey!
A Deadbeat! A Dago!
A Dog!
Watch what you blurt
Words Hurt

You’re a fat Lardass!
A Loudmouth! A Loser!
A Louse!

Watch what you blurt
Words Hurt

You’re a Thick Moron!
A Minger! A Munter!
A Mutt!
Watch what you blurt
Words Hurt

 You’re a Pink Poofter!
A Pikey! A Plonker!
A Prat!
Watch what you blurt
Words Hurt

You’re a real Weirdo!
A Wally! A Wazzack
A Wimp!
Watch what you blurt
Words Hurt