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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
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
I did not look back except when I opened
these pages. But the fragrance of peas
has gone from them.
© Johnmichael Simon
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