A Martian goes to College

David Lodge

(with apologies to Craig Raine)

Caxtons are bred in batteries. If
you take one from its perch, a girl

Must stun it with her fist
before you bring it home.

Learning is when you watch a conjurer
with fifty minutes’ patter and no tricks.

Students are dissidents: knowing
their rooms are bugged, they

Take care never to talk
Except against the blare of music.

Questioned in groups, they hold their tongues,
or answer grudgingly, exchanging sly

Signals with their eyes
under the nose of the interrogator.

Epilepsy is rife, and the treatment cruel:
sufferers, crowded in dark and airless cells,

Are goaded with intolerable noise
and flashing lights, till the fit has passed.

Each summer there’s a competition
to see who can cover most paper with scribble.

The sport is hugely popular; hundreds
jostle for admission to the gyms,

And must be coaxed out when
their time is up. A few, though,

Seem unable to play, and sit staring
out of windows, eating their implements.