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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

how do you define a lucky kid?

In the snow
the children
are making a dolls' hospital.

Reminds me of a school
I taught in once
(for delicates,
originally, treatment for T.B.).
Bandstand type construction,
open on all sides.
On days like this
winds of pure ice whistled through

The children came to breakfast.
Asthmatics, mainly.
Some seemed to be on their last breaths.
You thought they would not last the day,
but after breakfast they were fine.
No thanks though, to the wind --
escape from home's 
emotional uncertainties, more like.

Back to what the children do.
Rows of lumpy animals --
some of species indeterminate --
and fragile plastic dolls,
most with missing toes and fingers
or wide cracks here and there.

They lie in snow -- the lucky ones
have bandstand structures 
made of straws
to shelter them -- 
on thrown-together beds.
A wooden nurse looks over them.

Their parents huddle in a corner.
They cry for them, have flowers 
and grapes for them -- real grapes,
but paper flowers. A short way off,
a dolls' house where the parents live.

The flowers, I hear them say,
are for them to remember
those who've died.


Ygraine said...

I have heard somewhere that convalescent homes and hospitals used to expose patients with chest complaints to the cold air as part of their treatment.
Can't understand it myself.
Being an asthmatic, I find the cold air almost kills me. I don't think I'd have survived had I lived in those times.

The children appear to be much more perceptive than most grown-ups. I think they realise that they are the lucky ones - to be here now, and playing in the snow!

Many thanks for another thought-provoking post, Dave.
I so enjoy reading your work :)

Tabor said...

Times have changed for these little ones although our air is more poluted.

Brian Miller said...

had asthma when i was a kid...its brutal...love the contrasts in this...the parents in the paper house...the wooden nurses....i agree with ygraine that children are often more perceptive to what is really happening than most adults...

The Weaver of Grass said...

I remember these so called open-air schools from my childhood Dave - you paint a fine picture of one.

The Weaver of Grass said...

I remember these so-called open air schools from my childhood Dave. You paint a fine picture of one.

Mary said...

Thankfully things are different today....I can't imagine exposing asthmatics to all that wind!

That last stanza is definitely a tear-jerker!

Kass said...

What a bleakly beautiful poem.

Tommaso Gervasutti said...

It's a vivid picture of a poem I have really, very physically, breathed.

haricot said...

There must be some vivid memory in the connection of snow and hospital in your childhood. The purity of the snowy white is a little painful.

Dave King said...

Perhaps I left it unclear. In the days when the "bandstands" were wide open they mainly accomodated pupils with T.B.. (Not that they did them much good either!) When I was there (for a six week teaching practice) they had fitted windows and were not so open. Even so they were dreadfully cold. The pupils by then were mainly asthmatics and children with emotional problems, largely caused by home situations.

Thank you for your very gratifying comments.

Generally speaking, I suppose that must be right, buit I was brought up during the times of the London smogs, and that has got to be the most polluted environment I have ever known. And it must rank in the top few world wide.

Yes, you are right about asthma being brutal. And correct, too - I think - and children being more perceptive. (I somehow think the open air schools must have been brutal too in their day.)

Thanks as always for the encouragement of your comments.

The Weaver of Grass.
Thanks Weaver. I had no experience of them until I ended up in one. I had of course read about them, and seen photographs of them, as part of the History of Ed course at college.
Much appreciate this comment.

I caught a couple of phrases as the children were playing. I must say the idea caught me off guard. There was nothing else in the play to suggest such darkness. Thanks for this comment.

I really appreciate you saying so. Than you.

Thanks Tommaso. This comment means a lot.

There are connections, yes. When I was five I was hospitalised over Christmas. It snowed hard and I would watch my parents make their laborious way through the hospital grounds. Also, I remember
nurse bringing in great bowls of snow for us to make snow balls and throw at each other across the ward. (We wer all confined to bed.)