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.
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