Childhood Revisited

In other countries, once I was young

passionate on green trees

I climbed them

clear through to the stars

cold into ice

tasting ice-cream up steep hills

shouting vanilla,

vanilla into childhood.

 

Buses were adventures!

I saved them, pennies and halfpennies

to buy doughnuts, kept farthings

in a moneybox shaped like a pig

under the stairs.

 

Moneyboxes couldn’t buy love,

I counted them in my room

under the stars, shillings, florins

huge silver half-crowns

smiling at the moon outside

landscapes of trees dressed

in Christmas, listening for sounds

of sleigh bells, but all I heard was

my father snoring between

the silence of white trees.

 

Mother was a kind woman,

kind but silenced.  I ran through

the house barking like a dog

quiet, she said, your father is sleeping

and she turned to fry the fish.

 

Fish was Sabbath eve, the Lord giveth

the Lord taketh away, father presided

at the table giving and taking; the fish,

the roast meat, the peas like green

marbles rolling downhill.

 

In summer I undressed like a pea

rolling down grassy slopes between

buttercups, gathering speed –

each year the green became shorter

my pod closed over me, became bumpy

green filtered through only dimly.

 

One day my father packed the books

into a wooden box and we left on a ship

for a new world.  Life is a ship, he said,

a one-way ticket.  Be quiet and eat your

peas, little children should be seen but

not heard.

 

I did not look back except when I opened

these pages.  But the fragrance of peas

has gone from them.

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© Johnmichael Simon

2006

.