Why Did You Fail?

Minister for Exams

~ Brian Patten




When I was a child I sat an exam.
This test was so simple
There was no way i could fail.

Q1. Describe the taste of the Moon.

It tastes like Creation I wrote,
it has the flavour of starlight.

Q2. What colour is Love?

Love is the colour of the water a man
lost in the desert finds, I wrote.

Q3. Why do snowflakes melt?

I wrote, they melt because they fall
on to the warm tongue of God.

There were other questions.
They were as simple.

I described the grief of Adam
when he was expelled from Eden.
I wrote down the exact weight of
an elephant’s dream

Yet today, many years later,
For my living I sweep the streets
or clean out the toilets of the fat

Why? Because constantly I failed
my exams.
Why? Well, let me set a test.

Q1. How large is a child’s imagination?
Q2. How shallow is the soul of the Minister for exams?


Poem taken from Minister for Exams by Brian Patten


Oh but child, shallowness of soul was never a crime. It may lead to unimaginable horrors, but it never stands trial in the law temples of men.

You had to fail. Those who tested you stood with empty eye- sockets and emptier souls, waiting to fail those who were gross in their fullness.

Do you know now, why you failed?


A Childs Imagination






Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on reddit
Share on telegram
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

2 thoughts on “Why Did You Fail?”

  1. Moving….
    First of all, imagine bringing out a message of this sort in poetry…incredible!
    Secondly, I like the powerful ‘climax’ of the poem. And the note at the end completes it, making us reflect on the unfairness of it all….

    1. I am amazed at people’s imagination and wealth of talent Vidya. How simply he has conveyed a world of meaning. Incredibly beautiful…! I am very glad you read this. You are one of the few who’d appreciate it exactly as I did.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Connect with me!

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,954 other subscribers.


Latest Posts