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Saturday 20 November 2010

Christmas 1938 on The Poetry Bus

This week our good friend at Enchanted Oak is driving The Poetry Bus and has asked us to address our own existence in the world. Fine, couldn't be better, except for the fact that it is ground I have worked over repeatedly. However, there existed an early poem which left a great deal to be desired. And so it was that Enchanted Oak's challenge was for me the spur to another attempt, another version. I felt I was far enogh away from the first not to be influenced by it - a triumph of optimism over experience, if ever there was one. Here though, the results of my second dig.

First joined-up memories of the real world,
of me a part of it, not understanding it,
of me in bed, my dad not making sense:
We have to go... he says,
a kindly place with special air...
where wizard folk charm children well
with just a puff of it.
Your Doctor Shellswell will be there.

I see it straight away in my mind's eye,
a towering wonderland of glass,
a shop of barley sugar minarets
all shimmering like sunlight on the sea.
Shelves bright with wands, Aladdin's lamps
and magic cloaks, tall hats and rabbits
out of them, and birds of paradise --
and elephants that disappear when told.

And there, behind the counter,
tall in wizard's cap, my doctor
taking from his bag the magic props
he always brings when visiting:
pills, stethoscope - and best of all,
his books of British Empire stamps,
two books of swops whose very names
are incantations, powers to cure all ills.

There's Montserrat, Somaliland, The Camaroons,
Hong Kong... My Brunei Grey
for his Seychelles, my Grandma says,
once cured my mild pneumonia.

Carried on a flying carpet in through Casualty,
where fairy sterilizers whistle steam
like kettles on a hob -- Just tell them mum,
two armies poised for war, I've left,
men bunkered in my bed,
I say,
I haven't time to stay for tea!

Next up, real lemonade and buns with cream.
(No mention yet of oxygen.) It might be fun -
and this from mum! - to stay the night.
All things conspire against me now
to put my private war on hold:
the Christmas tree, a nurse who fans
a latent spark in me, so easily she pulls
my strings, who tells me Santa knows
where I will be, will leave my things beneath the tree.

And so he does: a large Noah's Ark
with all the beasts, an army ambulance
with working parts and camourflage -
and - envy of the ward - Snow White.

But fairylands can harbour evil things.
Across from me, a terrorist,
a sleeper 'till the time was right.
Now with the confidence that heavy armour brings,
he'll send his Christmas tanks, he says,
to snuff out my Snow White.


Richard Theodore Beck said...

I like it. A poet's best compliment -- this is one I wished I'd written.

David Cranmer said...

"Second dig." Me gusta. I believe it is never to late to continue polishing and re-working sories I'm working on.

Enchanted Oak said...

This is a fantastical piece...those minarets and magic lamps!...kettles steaming and foreign stamps!...gentle nurses, Santa Claus!...and then BANG! that terrorist, snuffing Snow White!
Made me pause.

Thanks for riding the Poetry Bus, Dave. I've linked you. No worries.

Unknown said...

Magical memories, Dave, and much pleasanter than my hospital recollections, even with the terrorist!

Rachel Fox said...

Real hints of Stevenson's counterpane. I like the barley sugar detail too.

Titus said...

Dave, that's stunning. A conjured poem, beautiful, meaningful, full-ful. Loved it.

Helen said...

A fascinating peek into the mind and memory of Dave the boy!

Tabor said...

That little boy saw and felt so much while everyone else was running around doing their duty. We forget how complex little children are.

Totalfeckineejit said...

A magical cracker this one, Dave, full of good things. Loved it!

Louise said...

A very accomplished, magical, and moving poem with great insights into childhood and all the fear and wonder that it held along with life.
When I see writing like this, I just want to say 'keep writing.' Great Poem.

Carl said...

What an amazing poem dave. I really enjoyed the imagery.


Emerging Writer said...

Very visual, very interesting

Peter Goulding said...

A veritable confectioners store of delights Dave from start to finish. Enthralling.

Dianne said...

whew, I had goosebumps at the end.
Alladin's carpet ride of fantasy and yet... genies can be black magic.

Karen said...

Polished now to a jewel. This contains the magic of childhood.

Anonymous said...

creepy and haunting,
masterful writing....
enjoy the wisdom in your words.
keep it up.

Dave King said...

That certainly is the poet's best compliment, and I thank you for it.

That certainly applies to me. One of the reasons I have started to pick up these challenges is that I can never stop myself from tinkering. The deadline makes me see it as finished - sometimes!

Enchanted Oak
Many thanks for your help -both with the prompt and the linking. I'm not sure what was going wrong , but thanks. And even more thanks for the comments!

A good deal more pleasant than those I have had since, I have to say. Somehow hospitals were more civilised then - not only for children, I suspect.

It was a glittering time for me - not for my parents, I suspect. Both helped by the deep snow - which the nurse even brought into the ward for us to throw at each other!!! Can you imagine that happening now? But that's a different story.

Thanks a million. Appeciate the comment.

... who never grew up, some might add! Than ks.

Absolutely. You have it in a nutshell.

Thanks for that - and for your part in the Poetry Bus.

120 Socks
Wow! Not sure how to reply to that - except with grateful thanks.

Thanks. Strange how the images are as vivid for me now as events which happened yesterday.

Emerging Writer
Good to hear from you. Lovely comment.

I very much like the use of the word "confectioners". Thanks for the comment.

Do you know... I think I most enjoyed the black magic - then and now!

A most generous comment. Many thanks.

Jingle Poetry
Thank you so much. Good to have your comment.

Niamh B said...

Aw, such a lovely glimpse of innocence and magic, and reality too brought in at the end.
Nice one

Dave King said...

Niamh B
Really nice comment. Thanks for it.

Dick said...

Pretty much there, I'd have thought, Dave. (Although I'm none to judge, arch-tinkerer that I am too!) There's a great sense of its time in this poem and a powerful evoking of the child's perspective. A keeper in this draft, surely.

Dave King said...

Thanks Dick,
I'm hoping so, but am probably a little too close to be sure just now. It's certainly less embarrassing to read than the first version!