The Minister for Exams
When I was a child I sat an exam
The test was so simple
There was no way I could fail.
Question 1. Describe the taste of the moon.
It tastes like Creation, I wrote,
It has the flavour of starlight.
Question 2. What colour is Love?
Love is the colour of the water a man
lost in the desert finds, I wrote.
Question 3. Why do snowflakes melt?
I wrote, they melt because they fall
onto the warm tongue of God.
There were other questions.
They were as simple.
I described the grief of Adam when he was expelled from Eden.
I wrote down the exact weight of an elephant’s dream.
Yet today, many years later,
for my living I sweep the streets
or clean out the toilets of the fat hotels.
Why? Because I constantly failed my exams.
Why? Well, let me set a test.
Question 1. How large is a child’s imagination?
Question 2. How shallow is the soul of the Minister for Exams?
Copyright: from Armada (Flamingo (HarperCollins), 1996), copyright © Brian Patten 1996, used by permission of the author.
About The Minister for Exams
I left school when I was fifteen. It was a secondary modern school called Sefton Park, and now there's a supermarket where it stood. Just before I left, the careers officer called around to interview the entire school one by one. I think he gave us all about two minutes of his time. I said I wanted to be a writer, and he said I couldn't be a writer because I hadn't passed any exams. What he meant was the 11-plus and the 13-plus. Here's a poem called 'The Minister for Exams'.