Kathleen Bell – Registers


Monday, and Mrs Hill
calls out the register. You answer loudly,
sit straight up, and see
a big red tick. But when she calls
“Sureya”, there is silence.

Tuesday, and no Sureya. Mrs Hill begins
to call her name, then stops.
And later, in the playground
Sureya’s brother isn’t there.
You see your best friend James, and Marta,
and play with them.

Thursday. Sureya’s birthday.
You drew a card for her: a girl
with yellow hair and long pink dress
with a pink yo-yo, but you haven’t thought
who the girl is. She’s not Sureya
who has black hair and a blue dress.
Sureya spins a yo-yo too, and skips, best in the class.
Mum bought a present for Sureya. She grumbled
that presents are for parties. But Sureya’s poor
and can’t have parties at her house.
Mum bought a necklace with pink beads
and wrapped it up in sparkly stuff.
Sureya isn’t there.

So you ask Mrs Hill,
“Where is Sureya?” and she says,
“She’s in a place called Yarls Wood, going home.”
“So when will she be back?”
“She isn’t coming back.”
But that’s not sense.
Mrs Hill shakes some glitter from the card
and takes the present, says she’ll send them on.

You wait for days and weeks.
Sureya doesn’t write.
There’s still a tray
that has Sureya’s name,
a sticker by her peg,
the picture of a reindeer that she drew –
not very good –
with wonky antlers and sad eyes.

Christmas. You outline angels on a stable roof.
They’re practising their carols.
Only the ox and three cows stand to hear.
They munch straw from a manger.
Outside there’s desert sand, and trees.
“Well done,” says Mrs Hill.
She puts your picture on the wall.

New Year, and now she takes the pictures down.
Sureya’s name has vanished too.
You’re doing adjectives and long division
and there’s a new boy. He’s called Toby.
He looks nice.
You might be friends. He smiles.

5 thoughts on “Kathleen Bell – Registers

  1. Some other children in school begin to matter to us, but it is far more commonplace today than it ever was in my 1950s’ boyhood for potential friends to “just vanish” as their family has been deported. Powerful poem.

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