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.”
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
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…….
Sorting through a box of family photos………..
Moments set in the aspic of a photo
Smiles captured in chemical emulsions
Or the many pixels of light sensitive electronics
Laughter lost in time and space
Monochrome images or faded colours
Glossy rectangles with a sharp chemical scent
Hasty inkjet prints on inadequate paper
Rumpled by the moisture of the ink
Boxes full of mixed random images
From a life now lived and gone
Sometimes scribbled names on the back
Unknown unknowable faces
Odd ones where scissors have edited someone out
There is no order to this
To the memories evoked
The surprise findings
The glimpses into the undiscovered country
Copyright © 2016 Kim Whysall-Hammond