Brian Patten Our teacher told us one day he would leave And sail across a warm blue sea To places he had only known from maps, And all his life had longed to be.
The house he lived in was narrow and gray But in his mind’s eye he could see Sweet-scented jasmine clambering up the walls, And green leaves burning on an orange tree.
He spoke of the lands he longed to visit, Where it was never drab or cold. And I couldn’t understand why he never left, And shook off our school’s stranglehold.
Then half-way through his final term he took ill and he never returned. And he never got to that place on the map Where the green leaves of the orange trees burned.
The maps were pulled down from the classroom wall; His name was forgotten, it faded away. But a lesson he never knew he taught Is with me to this day.
I travel to where the green leaves burn, To where the ocean’s glass-clear and blue, To all those places my teacher taught me to love - But which he never knew.