Museum Poetry: A Calling at 17

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I’ve been working in the Florence Nightingale museum since May 2016 and prior to that I worked in bookselling.  I would like to write a poem a week inspired by my experience of working in the museum.  This week, I was impressed with Florence Nightingale being called to work by God when she was 17.  The words written on the wonderfully curved bench in the ‘Gilded Cage’ section of the museum, ‘On February 7th 1837 God spoke to me and called me to His Service’.  Yesterday, in the gift shop, a small child earnestly told me that she ‘knew something no one else did about Florence Nightingale’ I asked her what that was and she replied, ‘she was a nurse because God told her to be, she had no choice’.  I was not the only one impressed.

Even more so, because I had no idea what I wanted to do at 17 and wasn’t interested in anything God had to say.  I was brought up as a Mormon (yes, same religion as in the West End play, ‘Book of Mormon’ but no, I haven’t seen it) until I was 13 and my idea of God was a white bearded man who knew my thoughts and watched my every move.

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With that in mind, here’s this weeks poem;

 At 17, I wasn’t listening,

Or trying not to,

Brain made of paper,

Packaging to block God out

Because he was always critical

And I was tired of rules,

‘Thou shalt not do this’

Or ‘Thou shalt not do that’.

At 17, I was still at school scribbling,

Avoiding responsibility,

Carelessly mistreating free education

Because my main concern

Was meeting boys

Before it was too late,

As if it were a career choice.

At 17, I’d failed most subjects,

Left with history and art

Neither of which ignited a spark,

Brain made of paper,

Pages of escapism,

Thought it was inevitable,

I would go to Art College

As my parents had.

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