For sometime now, I've had a couple of true stories buzzing around in my head whilst I wondered if I could (should) use them, and if so, how. Then, not a hundred years ago, I swanned over to Ken Armstrong's Writing Stuff which is always different and always a pleasurable experience, and blow me, if he didn't have a couple of posts that might have been meant especially for me. One was a true story in which Ken was himself involved, the other a tale about the tale and how he came to write it, leading to a moral, almost a moral imperative, you might say, which convinced me that the true stories with which I have toyed long enough are asking to be written down and should get their wish. One of my stories is in verse, the other in prose. The one is a mix of childhood memories, mist and maybe even false memory, the other perhaps does not project my true image, does not show me as the totally lovable, virtuous guy I truly am. Hence the hesitations. No matter, Ken has made the issues clear enough: not to worry about getting it right; get it written. So with a "thank you" nod to Ken, here is the first:-
A Family Occasion.
Out on a limb above the Anderson,
hands reaching for the choicest plums - those velvet
bombs of taste, incendiaries of pleasure;
soft, waxy reds and yellows, blue-blacks and indigos.
Then suddenly alone upon an icy ridge
(though grandpa's hands were holding me,
tight as a rope around my waist),
the Anderson a lower peak; the tree
my Everest; the golden plums
small nuggets left by thieves - my treasure trail.
My plums! My own Victorias! - all mine, because
the tree was planted on the day that I was born.
You'd bite your plum along its length to leave an amber wake,
grainy, firm and juice-filled, then gently squeeze
until the sharp stone surfaced like a stricken submarine.
Those hands, though, strong and sure, whose were they?
Grandpa's, I was always told, but
I've a different memory: my relatives,
grandpa among them, sitting in the shade, in deck chairs,
by the house, their sherries and their beers and my half-eaten
birthday cake beside them on the ground (they, like
the day, were drowsy hot), when from the sky
a drone, and, looking up, a fighter plane,
black crosses on its wings. Then others,
distant, silent, high above the rooftops, out
beyond the chimneys, twisting, turning
the way our neighbour's hungry fish would pike
and swerve, challenging for food. One,
diving from the sun, was like the sly one
striking from his hideout in the reeds.
So I bellowed at the slumberers: "Achtung! Achtung!
Get down the Anderson, the huns have come,
the huns are here!" and heard my mother's voice:
"You'll have to stop him, John, we'll be in trouble
if the Bobby hears!" I saw dad rise and start towards us,
then stop dead. My anchor man behind, had weighed-
in with "Don't take all day, they're overhead!"
The shelter had a corrugated lip to be stepped over.
My mother slipped in hurrying, the lip
scraped down her leg, removing half the skin.
I thought she was the war's first casualty -
and that the bone might surface like a submarine.
Some things still worry me: those
German fighter planes... for half an hour or so
they must have stayed. Had they the range?
And mother's leg, could it have been
that badly injured? If so, who treated it,
and how? Who was it held me safely
as I crawled along that bough?
All I remember clearly, are the plums.
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