Why Did You Fail?

      2 Comments on 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






2 thoughts on “Why Did You Fail?

  1. Vidya

    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. Dagny Post author

      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.


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