Biology with Mr Fisher

Lesson one: let nature be your teacher.
No scrape of chairs indoors, no blackboard chalk
For him. Classroom fields. An outdoor creature
Who smelled of earth and planted with his talkā€¦

Elms. Galleons afloat the pasture seas
But scuttled by scolytus. Now un-helmed
Hulls, boreholed by the scurvy of disease,
Sink. Memory leaves where landscapes are un-elmed. 

Above the broken hulks the ravens croak
While ivy-anchored masts are felled and fall
Then flare in pyres whose embers spit and smoke
On sunflower heads inclined towards the pall.

To school, to chairs, to books, to bells, to learn. 
Through windows daydreams fly like birds and yearn.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Mr Fisher who taught me biology at Parkfields School, Toddington, in the early 1970s. My time there coincided with Dutch elm disease which ravaged the Bedfordshire countryside. He lamented the loss of these majestic landscape trees but turned arboreal tragedy to educational triumph by using it to explore nature in a way that has stuck with me ever since: up close and personal. Me and my classmates peeled bark to reveal the boreholes of the scolytus beetle larvae underneath. We examined the fungus the insect carried (the real killer) under microscopes. He sowed seeds in fertile young minds. Those seeds took root. There have been many fruits since. This poem is but the latest picking. Thank you Mr Fisher.

Dr. Mary Gilham Archive Project / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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Training company boss by day. Cyclist, runner, poet and a whole heap of other things too including son of a mother living with dementia.

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