Child talk

The Secret Keeper’s writing prompt included these words. The triolet was almost effortless. Imagine what I’m preoccupied with these days?

CHILD | TALK | HOME | TIME | PLAY

Nils_Simonsen_Children

Child talk echoes, on playroom wall

Chattering, light, bewitching, fay.

When did you all grow up so tall?

Child talk echoes on playroom wall,

Every bedtime around nightfall,

This home is emptier today.

Child talk echoes on playroom wall,

Chattering light, bewitching, fay.

NaPoWriMo: Sharp fragments

Penultimate day of the challenge is about memories. Here’s a string of the firmly anchored images that people who know better tell me are pure imagination.

Photo ©Böhringer friedrich

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The liner sailing the ocean,

green waves high as houses

and me in my mother’s arms,

salt spray in my baby face.

The big tree in the garden,

struck by lightning,

flaring like a torch.

The red UFO

flashing silently in the sunlight

across the old railway bridge

where children laughed.

No cars on the road.

Only I saw it.

Granddad dandling me on his knee.

His ghost perhaps.

The figure bending over me in the night

in a room that had been my nursery

until the next baby took my place.

Too small to be toddling,

no words yet to scream.

Memories or ghosts of them?

Unreal,

tied not in time and space

but to the silver strings

of the unattainable stars.

Microfiction: Black out

This piece was written for Margo Roby’s Tuesday poem tryouts. The theme, Lights Out, is electricity outage, power cuts to us Europeans. Yes, I know, it isn’t a poem. I misread that bit. However, this is what the prompt inspired, poetry or not.

Orion_constellation

Nothing seemed to trouble the calm flow of existence in those far off days of childhood. There was snow in the winter, sunshine in the summer, plants grew and bees hummed. School was a steady, necessary evil, and the future stretched no further than the weekend. Time flowed slowly, at walking pace, or at its fastest, the speed of an old red bus. There were grandparents, scones on Sundays, Mass and family visits.

Then something called the Three Day Week struck and Dad was at home at funny times of day, the menus changed and there was rarely any meat in them. But the most momentous change was ‘the power cut’. We had night then, real night, black and velvety. And stars. I loved those winter nights of black out, with the open fire and candles indoors. Outdoors, the world was full of the brilliance of the big stars, and the fainter flickering lights of the Milky Way. There were gas balls or ball lightning or UFOs that floated up the dark lane before disappearing into the glittering blackness, and a family of foxes grew brave enough to come and play on the starlit lawn.

The night became a beautiful, mysterious place, and I learned that Orion cartwheeled across the sky each night, a guardian angel, watching over the house on the hill. I sit here, in another house, far away from that childhood hill, while Orion still watches and waits. And I still follow the ballet of the stars, each night bringing me closer to piercing the mystery of what lies at the end of the dance.

Flash fiction: Crocodiles

A short story for Ronovan’s Friday Fiction prompt.

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The two grown ups were leaning on the rail, looking down into the river. Nat peered through the wrought iron of the bridge parapet; his interest caught more by the water as it swirled around the stone piers than by what his parents were saying.

“There just isn’t the money.” His father often said things like that.

“We can’t go on like this,” his mother said. “This isn’t living. It’s surviving.”

“The car’s on it’s last too, you know.”

“No holiday, the spare bedroom’s still not finished, and now the car!”

“At least we won’t be needing the bedroom.”

His mother sighed. A dramatic sigh that Nat didn’t believe for a minute. “Who can afford kids these days?”

Nat’s ears pricked up. This was when they usually started arguing about when they were going to give him a little brother or sister. Not that they ever did. Nat would have liked to have someone to talk to, someone who listened to what he had to say. He looked up. His parents were both staring into the water. Maybe they’d seen the piece of tree that looked like a crocodile too.

“Sometimes…” His mother sighed again. “I really think it might just be easier…”

“Tempting, isn’t it?” his father said. “Drowning’s not a pleasant way to go, though.”

Nat reached through the fancy ironwork and opened his hand. He pressed his face close to watch the pebble hit the water. His mother sucked in her breath.

“Stop that!” His father’s voice was hard. Like the pebble.

He looked up in surprise. He had stopped. He only had one pebble. He glanced down; the pebble was gone. Not even a ripple marked the spot. The river flowed on and on, over the place, thick, muddy ropes of water, carrying the trees that looked like crocodiles. The voices picked up again, lower, murmuring. He didn’t listen. The crocodile slid by, joined by a stag with great antlers. And a cloud of gulls were settling, riding down the river on the back of the crocodile and perched in the stag’s antlers.

The river rolled down to the ocean, Nat knew that. The crocodile, the stag and the gulls were all going down to the beach. On the riverbank, a pair of magpies were shouting at something. And in a tree that bent low over the water a little bird was singing, so sweetly. He listened and smiled. The sky was full of cloud faces, and all he wanted was to ride on a crocodile with the gulls, down to the sea. He didn’t wonder if his parents would want to come with him. He knew the answer.

 

Market

Eugène_Boudin_-_Rivage_de_Portrieux_(Cotes-du-Nord)

Passing through the market
Allez! Allez! Allez!
Arms laden with the heavy odours
Of peach and melon
Pêches blanches, melons
Paper bag of luxuriant deep red cherries
Ah non! C’est français ça!
Harvesting the summer
Sucré! Sucré! Sucré!
I pushed my way past
Balancing wooden cageots colour-stamped
Spilling Spain and Morocco
Onto groaning stalls
When the smell of the sea
Swelled like a cool wave
Heaving over boxes of chinking cockles,
Bright shells creamy foam-white
Wicker baskets mussel-brimming
Colours of deep water, violet, dark amethyst.
Whelks and shrimps
Yellow-green, rose pink
Palourdes, pétoncles
Gleam with the silver,
Dimpled light of shallow water,
Coquilles Saint-Jacques,
Langouste, ecrevisses, crabes

The velvet brown, olive green
Of anenome fringed rock pools,
All piled about with the deep green odorous
Strands of kelp, saltwater slick.
And my heart caught in my throat
With an unexpected sob
As the sea breeze tugged at my hair
Crying with the yearning voice of the gulls
For the tall cliffs
The sleek sand
And jewelled pools of my childhood.

Lost childhood

'Mother_and_Child,_Volendam',_drypoint_with_hand-applied_watercolor_by_Charles_W._Bartlett

Take my hand and hold it tight
As you used to do when you were small
And trusted me to keep you safe
On the woodland path where the trees grow tall.
Take my hand and walk with me
To the place you loved where the long grass grows
And you’d thread your daisies ’neath the trees
Where the river glides and the west wind blows
Take my hand and talk to me
The child who prattled endlessly
But now is grown and forgets she knew
The song the moon sings to the sea.

Poem for my parents

Time was

Once there was a time
when a house stood on a hill
filled with poems and a deep, warm voice.
The scent of turps and linseed oil
hung heavy and mysterious
amid the comforting smell of baking pastry.
Home was a ship riding a grassy sea
and green hills ran along the rim of the world.

They are gone now, into the shadows
with the home they made to hold our dreams.
But I will keep the memory of those times,
bright as a summer morning
until I too go into the shadows
beyond the rim of green hills.

Small wonder

In the deep of the night
When the air is still and the dark clings,
I stand at the window and breathe in the scent of childhood.
Only at night, when the city’s hum is silent—
Engines, motors, kitchens shut down—
Does it flood back, the thrill of childhood holidays,
Borne on the breath of a garden.
The scent of pine resin fills the air,
Hot exotic leaves, dry, non-British earth,
And the smell of southern plants, headier than jasmine.
Only at night, the heat that simmers
Releases memories of waking
On that first morning in a foreign place.
Indescribable scent of another summer,
A place shared for a few weeks,
Borrowed then boxed away with the souvenirs.

In the still of a summer’s night
The scent returns to haunt me.
Childhood wonderment at the subtle difference in the texture of the air,
Contentment with an odour caught on the breeze.
Leaning on the sill, in the stilly night,
Before engines and motors break the spell,
The wonderment is still there,
And memories crowd, drawn by the scent of resin.
Though the subtle difference has been commonplace
For half a lifetime now,
It eases the heart, and fills it with a joy
That reaches back through the years
To join hands with a child.