Polished beads

This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Tanka Tuesday prompt: Smoke and Veil.

The photograph ©Humphrey Bolton is of the disused railway line that ran close to the bottom of our garden. It was a favourite place to play, overgrown and mysterious. It hasn’t changed at all.


So many things jog a memory, shake it from the old biscuit tin on the shadowy shelf into the light. A word, a phrase, a hint of light on a leaf, the smell of cooking, all threads in a magic carpet that has one destination. The past is a place where nothing changes. The colours and sensations never fade—the sound of chattering voices, the heavy hand of heat and cicadas whirring, the ice cream van’s tune, the muggy smell of Woodbines and that indefinable, slightly musty, exciting and forbidden scent of drawers where secrets and souvenirs were kept. I can see and hear so many things that are long gone from this waking world, I tell them over, like polished beads in incense-sweet gloom, lest I forget.


Through a veil of smoke,

forgotten moments—a thrush

on a distant lawn.


Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

19 thoughts on “Polished beads”

    1. It was magical! When I was small, the railway line had been discontinued for so long that the company had taken up the rails years before I was born, and let the whole line return to nature. By the time I was eight or nine, it was a small forest that stretched for miles, and nobody seemed to go there but us.

    1. Thank you 🙂 I’ve been thinking about this place often lately, now that we’re set to move out of town and into the countryside. It feels like life turning full circle. When I was a kid, I didn’t care if playing in the woods was a weird thing to do, and I should have been asking to have a bicycle or to go to the cinema or whatever with everybody else. I lived in my own world then, watched the birds, followed animal tracks and kept out of sight. I’m returning to the same attitudes 🙂

      1. Many people (those who have access to bank balances and career paths) would say a life lived very foolishly. I’m happy with it this way 🙂

  1. The paragraph sounds like the opening of a novel to me–one that I want to keep reading.
    It looks like a wonderful place to have explored as a child–and beautiful to an adult, too.

    1. When I was a child it wasn’t as tidy-looking as the photo. The whole cutting was overgrown with trees and the bottom, where the tracks had been was sandy like a beach and covered in pools of stream water. I loved it there. Funnily enough, I set a book in this place, one that I haven’t finished yet. One of the many WIP that I’ve been sitting on for ages. I’ll get back to it one day.

  2. Loved how you described memories as threads in a magic carpet to the unchanging past. Moving to the countryside sounds wonderful. Wishing you many happy moments in your new home, closer to nature.

  3. Jane!! I LOVE these words: “…the muggy smell of Woodbines and that indefinable, slightly musty, exciting and forbidden scent of drawers where secrets and souvenirs were kept.” As I read they words my heart ached for that smell! It reminds me of old antiques and my grandmother’s house long ago. Splendid! I am speechless! ❤

    1. I’m so pleased this resonated with you. Yours and the dverse prompt set me off on a nostalgia trip. It’s good to do that now and again. Memories deserve to be revived.

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