The boy with the similar name

When Raymond Gough joined our class
He was almost a year behind.
'Sanatorium', said Mrs McBride
'So I want you all to be kind.'

'Roger, your names are similar
So let Raymond sit next to you
He'll need a friend to teach him the ropes
And show him what to do.'

Then teacher went back to teaching
And we went back to being taught
And I tried to be kind to Raymond
But it was harder than I thought.

For he was the colour of candlewax
And smelled of Dettol and Vick.
He was as thin as a sharpened pencil
And his glasses were milk-bottle thick.

Not only that but unfriendly
All muffled up in his shell.
Hobbies? Interests? Ambitions?
It was impossible to tell.

I was afraid of catching his yellowness
And smelling of second hand Vick
And the only time I could be myself
Were the days when he was off sick.

But what proved to be contagious
Was his oddness, and I knew
That he was a victim ripe for bullying
And so by proxy, I was too.

'How's your brother, Raymond?'
The class began to tease,
'Do you share his dirty handkerchief?
Do you catch each other's fleas?'

'He's not my brother,' I shouted,
My cheeks all burning hot,
'He's a drippy four-eyed monster,
And he comes from the planet Snot.'

They laughed and I saw an opening
(Wouldn't you have done the same?)
I pointed a finger at Raymond
And joined in the bullying game.

He stopped coming to school soon after,
'Sanatorium,' said Mrs McBride.
He never came back and nobody knew 
If he moved elsewhere or died.

I don't think of him very often
For when I do I blush with shame
At the thought of the pain I helped inflict
On the boy with a similar name.

From All the Best – The selected poems of Roger McGough. 

Why not try...
  • talking about bullying. 
  • answering the question: What do you think about what happened to Raymond?
  • reading other poems about bullying on this site by typing 'bully' into the search box.

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P-RM1

Roger McGough - The boy with the similar name