blackmail press 31  Marginalization
Paul Cliff

Marginalization - Pauline Canlas Wu
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,
the Blonde,
the Jew.

It’s there, ingrained. Like the watermark revealed
when the paper-sheet’s held up,
to saturate with light …

Clear as mud:
That kid is just not bright, at all.