Tag Archives: memories

Up the Volcano

Chickens roam the aisle, having burst
from their basket, but it’s only a problem when
we stop to let more people on.
The driver pulls us rounds tight curves
blasts his horn at slower traffic
squeezes between them
and a sheer drop onto smoking fields.

It’s 1983 and we are climbing Etna the hard way
in a local bus. Someone is praying in a low voice and
there’s nothing to hold onto except each other
and perhaps God. Certainly not the chickens
who squawk at every bump and swerve.
Three villages later we get to the hotel.
It is empty, embraced by a tall curve of still glowing lava.
Hailing a battered Landrover, we pay its owner to take us further
see the bus turn to descend to Catania once more.

Up once more, at a steadier pace, until the driver stops.
We walk over hot ground, to a raised snake of rock
which we climb, until I realise it is a lava tunnel and dangerous.
As we climb down you pause to take a photo
and the mouth of the volcano explodes.
Our terrified driver flings his vehicle around
we chase after him, get in, race down
past the deserted hotel
down further to find the bus in a village.

We sigh with relief at the safety of the bus,
Enter, find seats together. A chicken pops onto my lap
You stroke her gently and
a goat puts her head in yours.

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Memories of a long ago trip up an erupting Mount Etna in Sicily.

West London, 1970s

Every morning the Tube
trains sparked their way across points and
through grubby fields
off to plunge deep into London

Every morning, a deafening of birds
massive dawn chorus
rambunctious, full, above all loud
louder that the traffic on an infant A40

Every morning, the sound of garage doors opening
bicycles and mopeds eased quietly out
Fathers heading off to shifts
in the factories two miles south

then back to sleep, to dream
teenage longings
waiting for the alarm
and the rush to school

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

A soup of memories

Heinz Cream of Tomato, served piping hot with grated Cheddar cheese on top and dry toast to tear up and float in it. My Grampee would not eat it any other way, and neither would I. The delightful bright green soup we were served in a hotel in Germany’s Black Forest, which my broccoli hating young sons scoffed up quickly. Yes, it was Broccoli, we had bribed the waiter not to tell them. My homemade chicken soup, made to a recipe originally from Malta (Grampee’s homeland). One of our now adult sons, realising he was not recovering well from a bad bout of Covid drove for 2 hours to get home and have some. Apparently it’s a magical cure for all ills. On a cold day I love Miso Soup with seaweed – so warming! A find in recent years has been Jamaican Chickpea and Squash soup which is very tasty and filling. Soup is not a huge part of our family diet, but it is important to us and to me .

steaming hot bowl
spoon slides in
magic happens

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

This Haibun was written in response to the Prompt over at Dverse tonight. Come and join in!

Leonid

There
Amsterdam and Leonid turns up at a friends house
with a case of ikons and art
new identity papers
no longer a Russian
but a proud Ukrainian
selling treasure for hard currency
to build a country
 
When
we traipsed with him around dealers and auction houses
awkward in an unfamiliar world
waiting for bona fides to be checked
deals to be made
 
Now
I wonder where you are my friend
cannot understand how it came to this
how dreams shatter
conceptions of nationhood crack
peace shatters into sharp fatal shards

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

I want to see you dance

I want to see you dance again my love
although you mainly did the pogo

There are no crowds anymore
no Mosh to negotiate

I would always be further out
dancing in circles, arms outstretched

watching for your head
to pop up in random places

as you rose and fell
full of the joy of dance

until that day you pulled me in and
I found the sway and push of pressed bodies

breathing as one, living the music together
as ecstatic as loving you

Let’s do it all again…..

Copyright © 2022 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Happy Birthday my dancer!

In the gardens and the fields

Over twenty years after the end
gardens still had hollow mounds
or curved corrugated tin domes half buried
some doing duty as tool sheds
many simply as they were
when the bombing stopped
full of the detritus of nights spent sheltering
while death flew overhead

Mounds and tunnels  riddled
our playing fields
dry brick-lined hiding places
against bombers seeking factories
and factory workers
to blast and wreck
we used them  for massive games of hide and seek

London streets had many gaps
festooned with stately spires of
purple flowers, amid mossy rubble
the occasional crumpled saucepan
so much broken crockery

As a child, my father collected bullets and bomb shards
watched fighters fall crashing out of the sky
and ran to collect souvenirs while the metal was still hot

I and my brothers knew wars last remnants
and played amongst ghosts

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Bjorn is the host at dVerse, and is asking for poetry about war. Thankfully I have no direct experience. This poem is a slight re-write of one I wrote a while ago.

School

At age five I started school
I could already read and write
The teacher complained to my mother

The only free chair in the classroom
was next to John on the boys table.
He looked after me always. I taught him to read.

I remember happy days
camaraderie with the boys
punctuated by sly kicks from the girls.

Ever observant
I drew the moon in the morning sky.
My teacher called me stupid.

At age eleven, a new school
called me intelligent, poorly taught.
I left John and the boys behind.

Copyright © 2021 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Across the road

Was a whole different universe,
of course the road was the A40
or the Western Avenue as we called it then.
One side urban west London
the other a seemingly limitless sprawl of brambles
riddled with paths sized for squeezing small children
as if the local mothers had arranged it so
that adults could not blackberry but only
give instructions from the edges.
Everyone brambled in summer
red stained children limping home
at days end with huge leaking bags of berries
and a future full of pies and jam.
The real magic of that place was a stream
clear and sparkling, running over pebbles
in places deep and wide, where
baby brothers could be washed
and drinking cups filled.
The shallows were my solitary joy in spring when
armed with a net and an empty jam jar I searched for
blushed red male Sticklebacks, to bring them home
and watch them, marvelling at
their writhing sinuous shapes,
those outsized blue-green eyes
the sharp stickles on each back.

Copyright © 2020 Kim Whysall-Hammond

Taking part in Sarah Connor’s challenge over at Earthweal.

Here’s Sarah’s prompt:

“So, for this prompt, I’d like you to think about how you first felt connected to nature – maybe as a child, or as an adult. Some of those lost words may inspire you, or you may have your own lost word (or world?) that gave you a sense of wonder at the natural world around you. Maybe you collected caterpillars, or watched birds on a bird-table, or squatted down to watch beetles, or looked up to see squirrels in the treetops.”

Going to school

We are all three children
ready for school at last.
But who can go this morning?
Mum sits on the stairs crying
railing against our tardy ways.
She complains of our constant
losing of gloves and hats
not to mention sports kit
and of how hard it is to get us all ready.
My little brothers stand open-mouthed
frightened by this collapse of motherhood.
Older, I am far more worried about not
getting to school on time.
I’m still not allowed to walk there on my own
although the neighbour’s girl my age can,
and I’m wary of shepherding two
wayward little boys across the road to the school.
But, as Mum raises her voice in yet another wailing moan
I decide this must be done.

I pat her on the hand, and tell her
that I’ll do it today, then
I open the door.
Suddenly, I’m slapped, shouted at
called a little madam.
Suddenly, it’s fine for Mum to take us.
Crying, I hop from foot to foot
impatiently as she gets ready,
her ‘face’ needs to be put on which
always takes forever.

Copyright © 2019 Kim Whysall-Hammond

What do I remember first?

Is it the blackboard where I learnt my ABCs?
The way I tripped over my own feet, scarring my knees?
Waking up from sleeping next to my Nan in her great bed?
How it hurt when plaits were pulled tight to my head?
My gnarled, grumpy, loving Grampee
Telling me stories as I sat on his knee
Of Susan the Officer-kicking Mule
Or perhaps my first day at school
One seat left, next to John Searle
Happy to be friends with a lonely girl
The teacher who was angry that I could already read
My joy at being there, suddenly free
To learn everything and to love books
In which no one cared about a girl’s looks
My heroes were always boys and men
Not many strong women in stories then
My friends the boys  were rough and poor
Never cared what dress I wore or tore
Quiet, pretty and sweet seemed to be the rule
But I learnt another way at my first school

 

Copyright © 2019 Kim Whysall-Hammond

 

……I was trying (at the suggestion of a friend) to write a short account of my girlhood for my sons, and this poem came bubbling out…….