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These clothes have stains on them

blemishes of years, of my childhood

neither detergent nor looking the other way

erases them. In pride or with fits

of self pity I wear them. My stains.


The day I saved a cat from drowning

its foot was trapped in an ice crack

while it was fishing on the frozen lake

the crack parted and we both fell in

I lost a gumboot but the cat survived


Waterlogged and shivering, reaching home

father ordered me back to fetch the boot

but it was gone; he walloped me with his belt

he was like that; if you didn’t eat your cauliflower

at dinner he would say you’ll get it for breakfast


Once my sister and I climbed the few meters

up from the yard to living room-kitchen balcony,

arriving first I offered an arm to pull her up

but our grip loosened and she fell down in a heap


Tearfully she picked up a garden trowel and

threw it at me. It cut a gash in my forehead

which mother bandaged, chastising me after she

had ascertained that sister had not been harmed


My red money box shaped like a British

red mailbox had a key which my parents kept.

Disappointed with my meager pocket money, I took

a hammer, broke it open and bought twenty silver whistles


My best stain was earned when a friend and I discovered

that tickets to the fairground could be purchased in rolls

from the stationers. Cheerfully we visited the tombola stall

numerous times carrying home armfuls of penknives,

teddy bears and packets of liquorice allsorts which we ate

smiling with sticky black lips and teeth in the cellar

underneath the back of our house


My stains. If I had the choice, I would earn them again

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© Johnmichael Simon



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