Landscapes

At a high northern latitude
the tide’s flowing waters
stream past the grassy
verges on which I stand
bracing myself against the
gusty raucous gales blasting
these Orkney hummocks
huddling down close to
the sea avoiding the
eroding currents of air.
Hummocks sheltering near
each other channelling the
tide into narrow streams.

So strange to stand
taller than the surrounding
grassy landscape devoid of
trees which can only grow
in the shelter of human
habitations and structures.

So foreign to one who
was born to sandy beaches
here under tall forests, steep
farmlands tall mountains
of tussock, rocky scree all
rising as tectonic plates
grind against each other
far below a living landscape.


Previously posted December 2016.



Landscapes

Birthday Book

To Amy … from Grandma … 1895

When Amy turned seven in 1895
Grandma gave her a birthday book
for her beautiful copperplate writing.
Earnestly Amy inscribed birth dates
of her parents, grandparents, siblings,
in the approved handwriting style.
In time the writing became slimmer,
smaller, as a busy housewife and mother
scrawled hastily across the pages.

Now dates of marriages were
entered, births of children, deaths
of parents, of her own generation
flowing across the pages.

But not her grief at the loss of
beloved sisters, her sadness at the
second marriage of her divorced
youngest brother whom she was
not allowed to mention though he
was awarded a military cross
after the battle of Passchendaele.

She did not record the death of
the husband who only wanted a
housekeeper while she yearned for
a lively family home. Nor his second
funeral pyre on which she burned
all the photos from his expensive
cameras, from his own dark room.

She recorded her removal
with her daughter to a
newer smaller home.


Previously posted November 2016.

Birthday Book

After The Horses Bolted

After the horses bolted
they dragged the street tram
higgledy piggledy over its rails
uphill from the town centre.

After the horses bolted
the accountant was thrown from
the tram breaking his femur in
several places. He remained
bedridden for the rest of his life.

After the horses bolted
his eldest son, a new graduate
gave up his Rhodes Scholarship
at Oxford university.
The next son left local university.
Both worked to support the family.

After the horses bolted
his two older daughters cared
for their bedridden parents,
the youngest went out to work, then
all married solid business men soon
after their parents’ early deaths.

After the horses bolted
the accountant died a few years
later, then his wife. The youngest
son at sixteen was sent to live with
uncle in a faraway city, worked
as a warehouseman all his life.

After the horses bolted,
after the parents died the older
sons sailed far, one to Australia
one to India. The sisters stayed
scattered around town, firmly
contained in provident marriages.

After the horses bolted
the youngest brother lived out
his life in his new far off city.


Previously posted November 2016.

After The Horses Bolted

When Mum Went Out

On a wet school holiday afternoon
Mum went out with baby brother
leaving Auntie Jo in charge of his
sisters’ bathing and hair washing.

After the sloshy business of bath
play with many toys in a well
filled tub they added more suds
as they washed themselves. Now
joyousness became tetchiness as
Auntie Jo washed hair and wriggling
feet poked ribs and tummy.

Auntie Jo’s firm response to the
seven year old’s impatience with
adults and younger sister was not
what the seven year old wanted.

The five year old with thick tangled
hair cried loudly as Auntie Jo
tried to brush her hair to dry it.
So Auntie Jo left her to brush it
herself, dried the seven year old’s
hair instead. Loud howls poured
forth from the five year old who
wanted her hair dried right now !

The black and white cat now tried
his luck for an early dinner while
the parents were out, meowing
desperately to say he was fading
away to a skeleton ! He was not !

Auntie Jo knew children
pushed boundaries, but cats !?!

A very strange afternoon !


Previously posted November 2016.

When Mum Went Out

Baby Brother

Baby brother is dressed up
to collect his sisters from
school at home time.

Great Grandma knitted his bright
striped beanie, cousin Paul grew
out of the dashing dinosaur leggings;
little friend Oliver passed on the
jacket with Barney on it. The
tiny tartan sneakers came from
Sarah over the road, she’s at
kindergarten now, nearly a big girl.

Yes the big girls at school
will gush and coo and gasp
over him – he enjoys that already.

Mummy thinks he is cool too.
Holding him on her hip she
tickles his ribs with her free hand.
He giggles and wriggles
wiggles and jiggles
chuckles then shrieks
gleefully, joyously
grinning from ear to ear
energetically, excitedly.

It’s a happy day today !


Previously posted November 2016.


Baby Brother

Friday Night On Main Street

Vertical and horizontal signs
blaze Korean alphabet symbols
around shop fronts and mall
signboards on brightly lit shops
and three storey shopping
malls lining the multi laned
roads crossing the intersection
afire with many traffic lights.

Crowds flow along footpaths and
shopping aisles released after
a day at work and school.

Time to eat out: in a small
family restaurant or a food
court stall ? Or at Macdonalds ?

Sit cross legged on the floor
wielding chopsticks round potato
pancakes or a table of
many dishes and sauce bowls ?

Or sit on chairs at tables
at the Lotte Mart food court ?
Or in the Macdonalds shop eating
burgers with Korean flavoured
sauces ? Followed by an
American ice cream shop sundae ?

A bright evening wherever I eat
surrounded by jaunty crowds.


Previously posted November 2016.

Friday Night On Main Street

A Lone Child

A lone five year old in the
Korean English kindergarten
slips away from noisy boy
rough housing, only goes to the
boys’ toilet when it is vacant.
He shrinks back from his
classmates’ loud voices,
covers his eyes when lights
switch on, on a dark day.

The creatures in the rock pools
which he visits with his father
on Saturdays fill his mind
and the facts in the rock pool
books his father buys for him.
He recalls them all for his
teacher on Monday mornings
in impressive detail.

As Mrs Jenny walked past past the
family at the traffic lights
he called out, talked to her
at length in excellent English
as his father parked the car
at the kerb while they talked.

At the library his mother met
Mrs Margaret borrowing English
books for the kindergarten.
“Something is wrong with him ?”
she asked. They both cried.
Mrs Margaret told her the
word that is not mentioned,
that parents’ love and that
Saturdays at the rock pools
will buoy this child
out in the world.

They both fear for him
at the big state school
next year.


Previously posted November 2016.

A Lone Child

Korean Typhoon

Down the side street
across the road shrieking
gale force winds bend
lashing trees horizontal
close to the ground.
Huge gusts of rain
blast along the empty
street, cascade down
the window panes
like Niagara Falls.

The principal rings to say
the English Kindergarten
will be closed this morning
as the buses are unable
to collect the children.

Oh dear ! Korean mothers
want full value for every
cent of the fees they pay
for their children’s tuition
at the private English
kindergarten.

There will have to be a
Saturday lesson to make
up for the missed hours.


Previously posted November 2016.

Korean Typhoon

Wartime

Militarist conquerors
subjugated Korea’s peninsula
enslaving its people for
service on eastern coasts
they invaded across the
narrow sea. Some were
herded on to their conqueror’s
ships surging southwards
invading other island nations.

Enemies captured some of
the conqueror’s ships, imprisoned
their sailors in far away
southern lands. Would be
escaper uniformed sailors
remained locked up. But
thin gaunt slaves in coolie
rags now had adequate food,
shelter, clothing. Work parties
with a single guard daily
laboured on farms short
of wartime manpower.

At war’s end they were
released
repatriated
to a liberated homeland
wrecked by forty years’
militarist occupation.


Previously posted November 2016.


Wartime

Suppose They Held A War … And Nobody Came

Korea’s little peninsula home,
at last free of invaders, found
its northernmost neighbour
propelled southwards by the giant
northern ice bound land
to conquer the whole peninsula.

Now Koreans fought Koreans.
From across the ocean another
giant nation aided the south
on jagged battle fronts snaking
to and fro, up and down this
tiny gangway to the east.

After a truce three years
later the south waited but
the north never returned
either to fire shots
or sign a peace treaty.

… a truce still in limbo.

Sometimes the north fires
deadly fusillades then
retreats like children
ringing a doorbell …
running away.

With military bases
supported by friendly
nations the south
continues it daily life …

They all continue to wait.


The war between North and South Korea lasted from 1950 to 1953.
After a truce in 1953 the North never returned to the battle front.
It is generally believed that they and their backers, Russia and China
had run out of necessary arms, food, and overall resources to
continue fighting the south, which was backed by the USA and its allies.



Previously posted October 2016.

Suppose They Held A War … And Nobody Came