Polished shoes, the front row understood,

and ties and Tony Curtis hair

made all the difference then. Except

for Benton, Maher and Noddy Woods

all destined, as they were, for medicine or law,

their fathers’ butcher shops or what

their mothers’ saw as their best routes out

of the mire. No Windsor knots to tie

them to a future unprepared, no worrying

ambitions to fulfil.

And Cocker Roach and Peter Hill

plonked either end to form a pyramid

of hopeless boys. The taller forming peaks,

the smaller troughs and indiscernible

against the folds and creases of a picture

sixty years old. The trees not yet in leaf,

the branches yet to stretch and burst

with blossom in that ancient spring.

Brady, Coulton, Kirby, Cook and King,

all yet to learn, not Greek or Latin words,

illustrious verbs or everlasting nouns

but biffs and bams, survival, scrapes

and pains, ecstatic ups and agonising downs.

Not in their sweet indifference are there any

signs, except for Benton, Woods and Tony

Maher, of what their futures had in store;

or trace of pathos in a single eye, and far

too young for guilt or shame. But Culkin tilts

a little in on Grant, perhaps to whisper that

he sees despondency and solace as the same,

the shadow of the marksman taking aim.