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Where the primary school and the houses end

are hawthorn hedges and occasional oaks

on either side of the lane. From the school gates

the leafless trees are an arching, tangled

fretwork – closer each twig is proud, discrete,

vital, sentient. A sudden gust of wind,

or a lightning blow, in one oak tree’s

early growth snapped off a branch, and left an arm

with a claw like a beak. Shut behind the gates

the gradground children have no chance at all

to imagine the stub of a branch a bird,

note the old birds’ nests in the hedgerows,

acorns crushed beneath occasional tyres,

and, whole, nestling in the wintry verges –

or count the first green leaves.




© Copyright David Selzer
2 Responses
  • Hugh Powell
    March 26, 2021

    The Broken Branch so perfectly captures the damaged education system that prevails. Schools have reverted to prisons with a cheerless curriculum. Lists to be learned. ‘Gradground’ is a coining of genius.

  • Jeff Teasdale
    March 31, 2021

    Lovely David. I was working in a primary school not too far from here many years ago, trying (and succeeding, I think) to make D&T ‘interesting’. We were building a living willow dome, planted in a corner of the school field, and weaving the structure in on itself, little kids stretching up and up (we’d call it Pilates now) to fix the branches together, being careful of the new buds just coming out.
    Planting required me hammering an iron stake deep into the earth (and sometimes through buried builders’ rubble – they will have been paid to take it away but usually just covered it in cheaper and-much-less-trouble turf) for the kids to push their willow – often with their name on it on a label for individual care, watering and attention – into the ground. Then I heard a terrible scream from one of the children and the biggest earthworm any of us had ever seen came out of a hole like a snake. The headteacher (one of those rare ones who actually put her wellies on and got stuck in) shouted “Come over here everyone, and look at this”…… and then said to me quietly “Bugger the national curriculum, this is ‘Awe and Wonder'”. There followed an impromptu ‘lesson’ on worms and soil, and lunch inside the willow dome. Another of the many unintended and happy consequences of TVEI (David knows what that is!).

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