Dances With Wolves
By Michael Durack
Watching ‘Dances With Wolves’ in Pass English,
the buffalo hunt has our undivided attention
until Teacher (aka Knows It All) pauses the video
to draw attention to a clever camera angle and to share
a priceless nugget about Native American tribal customs.
Cue outburst from Darren (aka Talks through His Hole).
The tape rolls again while Dunbar courts Stands With A Fist
and logs his emotions in that classy leather-bound journal
beloved of lieutenants and stocked in Waterstone’s.
Then Eddie (aka Breaking Wind) uncorks a silent rasper;
the braves groan and swear, and fan themselves
with A4 copy books of the type beloved of fifth-years
and purchased in Tesco’s. But peace comes dropping slow
before the bell rings, when all of us, including me
(aka Keeps A Low Profile) and Barry (aka Sleeps Through English)
Spring from our desks, and the entire Sioux nation sets off
On its Trail of Tears to French and German or Ag. Science.
This is an extremely funny poem by Michael Durack (aka Poet Who Keeps A Low Profile). Michael quietly taught English for many years in Nenagh CBS in County Tipperary. His work has appeared in journals such as Boyne Berries, Skylight 47, The Stony Thursday Book and Poetry Ireland Review. His publications include a memoir in prose and poems, Saved to Memory: Lost to View (2016) and a poetry collection, Where It Began, published by Revival Press in 2017.
Little did the unsuspecting ‘braves’ who sat before him every day in his English class realise that they were in the presence of a very keen observer of the human condition, and someone with a very wry sense of poetic humour to boot. In this poem he captures beautifully the mood in a (double) Pass English class on a Friday evening with the young male ‘braves’ of Nenagh and its hinterland!
One of the great emancipations in the Noughties for all English teachers was the rejuvenation and re-imagining of the Leaving Cert English Syllabus brought about by such luminaries as Hal O’Neill and others in the NCCA. One such early new arrival on the English Syllabus was the epic Western, Dances with Wolves, which starred, Kevin Costner as Lieutenant Dunbar. Indeed, the film was also produced and directed by Costner. In the film, Dunbar is depicted as a Civil War soldier who develops a relationship with a band of Lakota Indians. Attracted by the simplicity of their lifestyle, he chooses to leave his former life behind to be with them. Having observed him, they give the name Dances With Wolves. Soon he is a welcomed member of the tribe and falls in love with a white woman, Stands With A Fist, who has been raised in the tribe. However, tragedy soon ensues when Union soldiers arrive with designs on the land.
Looking back now from 2019, those halcyon days seem Dickensian! The changes in mass media and communications that have taken place since 2000 are simply mind-boggling! In those days the efforts harried teachers made to ensure that their students could avail of these new developments was often Herculean. Firstly, you had to come by a VHS copy of the film and then you had to search the school to find a television and a tape machine and wheel it in to your designated classroom. This was not an easy task as these trolleys containing big, bulky 28” TV’s and a VCR player were like gold dust, in high demand.
And for those nostalgic for that great, epic Western – sit back and enjoy the trailer to Dances with Wolves (1990).