Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Winter Aconite: Remembering Iris Wathen

The best teacher I ever had died yesterday, and the timing feels a bit strange as she'd been much on my mind these last few days.  I was in her class almost fifty years ago, but I still remember which things she taught us and how she made me feel, which is valued. 

This is a poem I wrote about her some years ago. I'm glad I got to share it with her. 

Winter Aconite

for IW

Were you called Iris for the rainbow goddess
or the stately flower? 
Either way your name isn’t apt. There’s nothing
fluttering or ethereal about you, you don’t
drift through gardens in sapphire silks
and monochrome scarves  

Instead you bundle about your business
with diffident squirrel glances, dark,  
earthed as the roots of the plant you brought in
to show us one winter’s morning,
exploring the lure of its petals
its deep-toothed leaves

Though sometimes there were rainbows
in your classroom. I remember
refraction through jam jars of water,
a milk bottle chrysalis bursting with ice,
triangular prisms lifted from boxes
like ingots of light  

©Deborah Harvey 2011


Reading comments about this blog posted on my Facebook, it seems that Miss Wathen was the favourite teacher of quite a few other former pupils too - no surprises there then. And that tadpoles featured quite heavily in people's recollections. I'd forgotten the time the naughtiest boy in the class knocked the bowl of frogspawn from her desk onto the floor.  It was an accident on this occasion, and she didn't shout at him and tell him off as other teachers would have done; she merely asked him to pick it all back up again.  :-)  


  1. What a moving way to remember this woman, changing lives through her every day business.Beautifully written.