Monday, November 28, 2016

27.11.16 (#331) The New Lands by Myron Lysenko

Our school border on the west side was Pentridge Jail,
a wall we tried to kick footballs over.
Guards in the towers with rifles on their backs
made it harder for us to wag class;
some graduated and some went into Teachers College
others graduated into the Bluestone College.

The eastern border was the Merri Creek,
the pollution over rocks blobs of rainbows.
After school we walked those banks with a stick
trailing in the water looking for the rope
tied to the roof of a FJ Holden, our communal raft.

The southern border was the teachers college
with kids like us changing into disciplinarians.
Across the border at the front of the school
lay Coburg Swimming Pool and on hot days
we dived out of windows in our heads
and escaped into that light blue water.

Newlands High was closed down
by a cruel government’s budget cuts in 1992.
I rode my bicycle along the Merri Creek Trail
and crossed at the old bluestone bridge built by convicts.
The school had been pulled down.
I walked and searched among the ruins,
through those rooms where I was trouble.
The only building left, the portable classroom.

We were working class in the Northern Suburbs,
many of our teachers young, groovy and radical.
Mr Hudson tried to teach us a version of Australian
History, and later managed the International Bookshop
in the city with its shelves of communist and socialist books.
Mr Patford taught Eighteenth Century History
through a beard and I met him decades later when his beard
was longer and he was the Mayor of Fitzroy.

Miss Thomas taught English in her miniskirts and dresses
and she directed my eyes to plays, poetry and novels.
Mr Van Der Sluys the cool, handsome artist taught me Physical
Education; he was a noted print maker who died of leukemia in 2010.
Pat McGoldrick was the charismatic PE teacher who played rugby
for Box Hill on weekends and later coached the Victorian State team.

Max Tomkins was the deputy principal who introduced
us to homosexuality and the benefits of being effeminate—
a man who acted, produced and directed theatre plays.
Mr McKenna sir, was the principal whose son was a champion
full forward for the most hated team in Australia.

Ms Sholtz under her curly black hair took us for Social Studies
and in 1971 to the Moratorium against the war in Vietnam
where we ran away from her into the clutches of the nearest pub
at the top of Bourke Street opposite Parliament House.
These and other teachers taught me more than I ever learned.
School was so good, and the teachers liked me so much
they failed me and invited me to repeat my final year.


  1. Wonderful. So visual. I was at that Moratprium too, just out of school a year or so and unsure about the politics. Your school wqs amazing with all those stories embedded. And there is much to be said for repetating or slowing down for a yar.

  2. Maybe a stanza break at 'The eastern border'? :)

  3. 'These and other teachers taught me more than I ever learned.' Sums it up beautifully!


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