Life flies

I have two daughters in Italy at the moment, one in Milan, the other in Naples. The one in Naples will be back soon, the other will be back for Christmas, but perhaps not to stay. I haven’t felt so happy in ages.

Fifi's Alps

Life
if you take your eyes off it,
just for a moment,
takes wing, flies, like nestlings,
leaves on jet plane or some other form of locomotion,
soars unaided,
taking memories of the closeness,
the warm breath of home,
arms enfolding, hands holding,
and suddenly, a shared part of the world
is a shade cooler, a place in the nest
half-empty, where it once throbbed with young
life.

Growing

Bittersweet thoughts of how gaining an adult is losing a child.

Cassatt_Mary_Children_on_the_Beach_1884

Childish laughter echoes in the night,

It fills the morning with its music bright,

Paints a thousand hues in crystal light.

 

For a time we two walked hand in hand,

Two sets of prints in the mirror sand,

Tides swept them smooth, empty now the strand.

 

Memories cascade in golden streams,

Dance like dust motes in the sun’s bright beams,

Happiness is never what it seems.

Purple dusks

A poem that wouldn’t let me sleep last night

cassatt_mary_children_on_the_beach_1884

Where have they gone, the purple dusks,

The golden days of honeyed balm?

How did time tick tock so fast?

Slipped through the fingers, the small radiant joys,

In a cascade of colours, flowing like silk,

Into the vast, blue ocean no dike can hold back,

That we skimmed on snow-white feet for want of wings.

The soft nights and mornings full of love,

And the birds that sang their ancient songs

Among the spring and summer roses,

Long gone, their memory echoing sweet,

A scattering of feathers, like fallen petals.

Shadows on the flesh now,

The touch of a small, sticky hand in mine,

Sleek, warm, undemanding fur

Of placid, ephemeral companions,

And the heart overflowing, the arms overflowing,

With the glorious burden of a tired child,

All swept away, dead leaves in the wind,

The old rocking horse that gallopy-gallopied you off to bed,

Lost now beyond the bend in the road.

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.

The moon and the stars

Caspar_David_Friedrich_028

When we were young we little cared
For the stars, the moon or the bright green shade
We took our pleasure where we would
And thought that life was what we made.

When we were grown we’d never time
For the stars, the moon or the velvet night
The sky too high above the crowds
Our eyes too full of neon light.

When love grew cold we turned away
From the moon, the stars and the smiling sun
They reminded us of what we’d lost
When you and I still thought as one.

Now we are old we never look
For the moon, the stars and the scented rose
We see cold stone beneath our feet
And close the door when the north wind blows.

But the moon, the stars and the wild north wind
The scented rose and the singing birds
Still tell the story of the earth
To those with ears to hear the words.

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.

The Eye-Dancers

It’s been a while since I last posted. Been busy writing and editing, and doing a bit of reading too. This is the book of a blogger friend, YA and also fantasy in a way, that has intrigued me for months now. Well done, Mike Fedison; you’ve written a book about children that gave this adult food for thought.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Eye-Dancers-Michael-S-Fedison-ebook/dp/B00A8TUS8M

I had already gathered, from following the author’s blog that, although the boys who feature in this story are quite young, this wasn’t going to be a straightforward comic book adventure. In fact, the action is secondary to a thoughtful exploration of the individual motivations, personal problems and anxieties of the characters.

Using the vehicle of solving a kidnapping mystery, each of the boys takes a burden of small personal dramas with him into a parallel universe, which becomes more a setting for their voyage of self-discovery rather than the whole point of the story. They all have problems that are part of growing up, dealing with family tensions, and coping with social and physical stigmas. The boys don’t behave as a pack, and I think the author has very cleverly chosen a disparate group of not really close friends. Each character is essentially alone with his anxieties, and only at the end of the story, by learning to overcome these anxieties does each one discover the true meaning of friendship.

The pace of the story is always measured; the first part especially, which describes each boy’s home background, is slow to gain momentum. Throughout, to show character growth, each of the boys spends much of his time alone in introspection. Although this slows the action, the end result is a more satisfying read.

The characters themselves are likeable, touching even, though in some aspects they come closer to metaphor than flesh and blood. There’s the ‘Brains’ who nobody likes, the aggressive one who has trouble controlling his violent streak, the joker who just wants to be liked, and Mitchell who is lumbered not only with rowing parents but a speech impediment.

Given the subject, the whole story could have been rather preachy, as each boy faces his personal demons and overcomes them. But the tone is not at all moralising, and the author has a light touch with the theme of growing up. Joe, the aggressive one, for example learns to control himself, not by having the daylights beaten out of him, but by understanding Ryan’s quiet courage. Brainy Marc learns the limitations of his rational explanations, not by having stronger intellectual arguments thrown at him, but by accepting Mitchell’s simple statement that you can’t explain everything with handy theories. The boys learn a lot about one another and themselves, and all four appear at the end as more likeable, balanced human beings.

The least convincing aspect was the mystery of the ‘ghost girl,’ which to my mind leaves a lot of loose ends. The girl herself understands an awful lot about the paranormal, psychic messaging, and the workings of parallel universes for a seven-year-old, but is surprisingly inept when it comes to conveying vital but very simple information to the boys trying to rescue her.

But that aspect of the story is almost incidental. The real story is about self-discovery, growing up, and learning how to be a friend. This is a book any parent would be happy to have their child read. Unlike many books with a ‘message’ aimed at the young teen age group, this one takes the subject of friendship, unhitches it from any religious connotations or motivations, and goes right to the heart of the notions of tolerance, selflessness and responsibility.

 

A time to dream

When we were green and growing
what would be was what we chose.
We had not dreams but certainties
built on rock and wrought in gold and silver
that grew like fairy castles
after nights of whispered loving
mornings hushed in crumpled sheets.
Walking hand in hand down unknown streets
we embraced their beauty making them our own
Tier on tier of balconies climbed the infinite sky
pouring cascades of brilliance into hidden pools.
Desires soared on soft white wings
like towers wreathed in seabirds
and we commanded night and day
changed the course of sun and moon
and scattered stars in a velvet sky.

Now that we are grown
and green hazes into gold
our world hangs round and ripe
an apple on a tree.
We share the fruit and find the taste
is not what we had planned
but the tang of bitter honey
is the same for you and me
shade is as cool and birdsong is as sweet.
The golden light that blunts the thorn
softens regrets to a melancholy pang
and paints a patina of strength on flaking mossy walls.
And we two, rocked in the arms of our grand designs
shaped with love and grown into a castle tower
can lay aside our furious desires
and at last begin to dream.

Dominik_Schuhfried_Burgruine_am_Felsen_1866

Who are the New Adults?

In an earlier blog post I wrote about the difference between Middle Grade writing and Young Adult, often dumped in the same basket. Now there’s a new genre, New Adult to fit into the relatively few years that lie between childhood and adulthood. My first reaction was enthusiastic. Maybe this is the category my books should be in. Then I had a look at what was included under the New Adult heading.

Judging by what I’ve seen so far, this new category seems to be used to add sex scenes to writing otherwise aimed at younger teenagers, so it can be presented to the eighteen plus group who I would consider adult anyway. Is this not just another marketing ploy to point eighteen/nineteen-year-olds in the direction of books with sex in them but no long words? Why can’t nineteen-year-olds read adult books like the rest of us?

When I was a young adult, we didn’t exist. You were either a child or an adult for literary requirements. When you were thirteen you got an adult library card and you graduated from the children’s section, which included books by Alan Garner, Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff to the fully-fledged adult section. Or you oscillated between the two depending on your capacity to ‘get’ the adult concepts. Contrary to what some parents believe, teenagers read only if they enjoy reading—thirteen-year-olds rarely pick up a book when they are after a cheap thrill, they turn on the computer.

Which begs the question: do we need this kind of censorship in reading matter at all? I am only too pleased to see my children reading anything, and would never dream of riffling through the pages to see if I could find a dirty word or a steamy sex scene. I am much quicker to pour scorn on the quality of the writing than to be shocked at the number of swear words used in it.

But then, I am maybe just a born-again hippie with utopian tendencies, who subscribes to the ideas of out of date educationalists like Piaget and Montessori, and who believes that giving children free access to pens and paper is more important than any electronic gadget you can name. l am probably an irresponsible parent, and it’s not surprising that my children are lazy, happy, under-achievers.

Part of growing up is pushing back the boundaries, testing, and experimenting. If a thirteen-year-old wants to read Anna Karenina, fair play to her/him I say. And I certainly wouldn’t plough through The Brothers Karamazov to see if the language was a bit iffy: my sixteen-year-old read it without me poking my nose over his shoulder to check, and didn’t take any harm from it.

It seems to me there is a growing tendency to keep children babies for longer, to cosset and protect them long after they should be flying with their own wings. Some of this protectiveness is laudable and understandable. We are lucky enough to live in an age when we can expect all of our children to outlive us, and it is the ultimate tragedy for a parent to bury a child. So we can give free rein to all the love we want to shower on our children without fear of losing them. That loving and cherishing shouldn’t retard their independence though. Should it?

Jean_Etienne_Lìotard_-_Ritratto_di_Maria_Adelaide_di_Francia_vestita_alla_turca_-_Google_Art_Project