Paul Cliff is a Canberra-based writer and editor. His collections are The wolf problem in Australia (Five Islands Press, 1994); Backpack Despatches: Travel Poems (Kardoorair, 1998); The Impatient World (Five Islands Press, 2002), and most recently Vanuatu Moon (PressPress 2011)
She drops her voice to whisper it sidelong:
The kid’s not bright.
Generally he’s slow at school —
not helped because he plays the fool …
But still —
The kid’s not really bright, at all.
We thought it might be physical:
his hearing or his sight.
Or perhaps something behavioural.
(Dyslexia? … Attention Deficit?)
We got him tested for it all;
talked to all the counsellors. Tried him at another school.
But then just got told cold:
What it simply boiled down to
was just the old IQ.
It can’t be helped:
The kid’s not bright — and that’s the score.
now you always see him in that light.
In subtle ways it underlays — informs —
his every, ordinary pause. Hems each little thing he does.
Fundamental as the Taliban, it circumscribes — dictates —
his every, incidental move.
Branded him: head, heart, eye, hand.
Typecast him like: the Boong,
It’s there, ingrained. Like the watermark revealed