Posts Tagged children

Parents

 

When your parents die

the movie ends.

Now you’re not playing a part.

 

You can sit back in your chair,

the one with your name on it,

and watch the action played back.

 

See the part you played.

Sit uncomfortable beside others,

self-conscious as your playing is reviewed.

 

And the silence closes in about you

as you see your failings

and the quiet of those around falls away

into the distance,

and your life and the stuff that is you

comes into focus.

 

A real tearjerker is this.

Who wrote this script?

How could, who would, did I?

 

They were just people.

 

Life’s timeline compresses.

Your streaming curve cuts across theirs

And streams away to curve back.

 

You with your guns firing.

Your stupid guns.

We should have talked more.

 

Because now I don’t see you

By way of a mirror.

Now I can look straight at you.

 

And I have to hang my head

So what am I really?

Now I’m in the mirror.

 

You stayed for a while.

I felt you and I heard your thoughts.

Now it’s quieter.

 

But one day I may

Have to have that talk.

About how we all made mistakes.

 

Mine feel so much greater

And I wonder where I’ll sit

Between you and my sons.

 

 

 

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I believe

 

There were four,

but then it fractured

into four.

 

And I curled and died

with shame and pain.

 

But they’ve risen from

our ashes

and fly proud.

 

What part did I play though

as was my understood purpose?

 

That purpose that faded away

so I could only watch

from sidelines

 

And cast faintly heard praise.

I believe

they’ll live better lives.

 

 

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Eternal now

 

Through that one small window pane

Looking out onto a black garden

On the darkest of nights,

 

I saw so many children

Running in the sunshine

Made sparkling by hosepipe rain.

 

And dogs and barbeques.

And the oak tree leaning over

To whisper smiling praise

For the children’s snowman.

 

And that battered and sun faded deckchair

That never got put away.

 

And the rose bush that ran wild.

 

And the garden shed that came to sag sadly.

 

And that forgotten glass in the flowerbed

That grew pale green with time.

 

And the memory of you.

Clear as daylight. Sitting there.

 

And that crumbling vision of a life

That drained away into the earth,

As though it had never been.

 

I weep for that now,

Seeing it through my mean window pane.

 

I weep for that in the eternal now.

 

 

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Ancient pram

 
 
In a Budapest pub against a wall,
Stands an ancient pram that sits quietly
Amongst the bawdy crowd,
Remembering walks in the park.

Its cast iron wheels and rusty springs
Support a wicker basket lined with
Broken cotton that once warmed
A baby long dead now.

In its place lie old bottles,
And a single, painted plate.

It looks up at the ghost of the woman
Who still patiently pushes her charge
Down tree lined paths in parks
Long since bombed beyond existence.

She sings to her baby
And it beams back,
Its awkward, human hand painted features
Irregular in a mechanised world.

The plate is still there
Whilst the baby’s long gone,
Having lived a process through
Two world wars.

Now through that plate,
The artist and the child join spirits
And smile happily up at the pretty young woman
Who knew nothing of what was to come.
 
 

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Place and process

 

The cigarette smoke world curls around me,
changing shape and fading away.

The present I see includes the past
as well as imagined futures.

The trees are bare now.
They had leaves and will have again.
The whorls and whirls of the wind
swirl remnants of the past year,
as beady squirrel eyes watch
the world move on.

Earth spins and moves and does its thing.
Fox and Owl make their noises in dark woods,
Jaguar prowls and Bat flits.

In some African savannah,
Kudu is eaten alive by lions.

Nearby, self obsessed termites
build webbed cities.

In the middle of this maelstrom
of whirling world things,
weather and wind and life passing,
I stand bewildered by the pace
and irresistible process
of which I’m a part with no control.

But mostly I’m amazed
by humanity’s contempt.
for everything.

And I play my part,
and wait to see the consequences.
May my sons forgive us.

 

 

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Education that teaches what matters, and a media that informs.

As science and technology define what we can achieve in a material sense, knowledge and understanding informs us as to how to best use our technical ingenuity. Education should give the individual person a framework within which to grow their knowledge and also to use it wisely. And that’s the key. Education needs be such that it encourages the wise use of knowledge. And in todays world, where the issues are global and interlinked, that means it needs to have a wide perspective.

I’m not just talking about school education here, but education in a broader sense as well. School education does need to provide a greater sense of context for pupils – why they’re learning what they’re learning. I’ve always been careful to try and explain this to my own sons. Discussing science and global issues with them after school hours so they become more aware of the world for which they’re preparing themselves. Whilst they of course have made their own minds up, independently of any input from me, I like to think that our talks have at least been partly responsible for one son deciding to train as a medical doctor, and the other being committed to a working life in nature conservation. School education should leave pupils with an understanding of the disparities in the world and the differences and relationships between people. Poverty is a relative thing – schoolchildren in the developed world should be far more aware of true poverty, where children die from lack of food and why. And pupils in the developing world should be more aware the needs of their country in terms of water management, land tenure rights and basic economics. Just an awareness, that’s all. Give them the building blocks from which to establish their own persepctives, values and intentions. These are the real things of life that the education process is supposed to prepare them for. Basic education means nothing if no context is apparent to which they can apply what they learn.

But it’s not just about education in schools. It’s about increased awareness in society generally. All tertiary education should include ‘context’ in its curriculum. A geneticist should know about global socioeconomics, including such issues as why antibiotics are losing their effectiveness (poverty plays a role here) to help them judge where best to aim their research for the most effect. A Builder should know why it’s important for buildings to be thermally efficient (emissions and climate change), and be informaed about social issues associated with housing. Accountants should be more aware of inequity in society and how wealth is being distributed. Journalists should receive broad training in everything from economics to nuclear physics to enable them to understand better what they’re trying to report. Virtually any occupation needs to have this more contextual awareness to enable them to apply their skills in the world in the most appropriate way.

In the west, we’re plagued by a media that trivialises life. Teenage magazine and so called newspapers that are focused on mindless celebrity culture and irrelevant issues. Whilst it’s obviously fine to have an extensive entertainment media, don’t let it parade as news. I once spoke to a bloke in a pub who was reading a copy of one of these papers (The Sun – a UK tabloid) and asked him why he didn’t read something more informative. His answer was that those big papers are too clever for him and he wouldn’t understand them. So we go back to the inadequacy of school education again, and false perceptions. I can’t help believing that if readers of these ‘newspapers’ were more aware of how they were being talked down to and patronised, and how an assumption was being made that they were indeed too stupid or ignorant to want to know about the bigger issues facing them and the way their governments (for whom they vote) and the world as a whole works – if they were made more aware of the world – then they may take an interest and want to know more. Then the world just may stand a better chance of overcoming the problems it faces as the people who vote for governments in democracies would be better informed as to how to vote. And Governments would have more flexibility to be able to implement policies that would currently see them voted out of office, such as green tax legislation for example.

I realise that I’m talking about a widespread cultural shift here that’s starting to verge uncomfortably on the idealistic. But we could certainly do more than we are at the moment, and it may only take a consequential shift in awareness amongst a relatively small group to lead to wider societal change in due course.

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Balance

 
 
Maybe the good bits
Are so good that we must pay
A pain price elsewhere.
 
 

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Childhood pressure

 
 
School ground noise hangs like a threat

Over the head of the quiet child

Who chooses to sit and to watch and consider.

For the rest of his life,

Prejudice will force his compliance

And spoil the gift that he could have been.
 
 

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Generations

 
 
Then the shell that you made,
Flexible as far you could make it,
Burst suddenly and the yolk
Sprang forth as a bird
And flew away.

Broken shells are your reward,
And you ponder why and question your virtue,
As the air that filled the volume of your life escapes,
And you scramble to find something
To bind your essential elements together.

Synthesising a new mode from remnants that seem stale.
To find a new world is hard.

Especially as there’s so little time.
The potential frame of reference is more confined.

Regardless of your best intentions,
I’m afraid
You’ve yet again
Passed the big questions on to the next generation.
You just didn’t have time.
 
 

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Under the oak tree

 
 

At a certain age and sitting
On a mouldy wooden park bench watching
Children swinging in the wind pushed
By smiling mothers in short skirts.

The old oak tree sighed as a cool breeze blew
Through my memories of being there,
Where I was watching.

And all the stages in between
Folded in on each other,
The same mistakes touching across the years

And chuckling at the irony
Of each other.

 
 

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The reason

 
 
Gentle love and lust
Find their manifestation
In laughing child’s eyes.
 
 

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Child

 
 
Fog hangs over me
And then children’s laughter shines
And I see what’s true.
 
 

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Small child memory

 
 
I was seven years old. She hit me again, and again and again, all the while screaming, screaming. Spittle flew everywhere and furniture crashed about me. I lay down and covered my head as she beat me again and again with the present that daddy had given me that afternoon. My present. It was smashed now, the head hanging out of a hole in the neck, one arm missing, the dress torn. I noticed this even as she hit me with it again and again and again. I was so small and she was so big. And I didn’t understand what she was saying. She just screamed and screamed and screamed and spat words that were wet on my skin. I didn’t say anything. I knew better. I bit my lip and tasted blood. And screwed up my eyes and waited for it to stop and watched the words and the screams become distant like the noises from the school playground did when I lay in bed at daddy’s house when I couldn’t go to school because I was sick. Bang bang bang on my arms and my head and my legs. And she kicked me and hit me with her fist. Then she grabbed me by my hair and dragged me across the room and up the stairs, shouting and swearing. I fell and she still dragged me backwards up the stairs. The wall, the patterns on the wallpaper, the banisters, the carpet with the shapes in it like fishes all whirled around me. Then she threw me into my room, and hurled my broken toy, the one that daddy had given me, at the wall and locked the door from the outside. I hurt so much on my arm and my head and I could taste blood. I curled up there on the floor and lay there quiet and still with my eyes closed tight and thought of Mrs Poole at school who’d said what a nice little girl I was and how she would love to have a little girl like me, and she smelled nice and was soft and warm and she put flowers in a vase on her desk every day. My present, the one daddy gave me, was all broken now.
 
 

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Donkey

 
 
There was a time that I remember well.
When we used to carry small children laughing
Loud in the shimmering sun
Over soft sand that yielded and made our only challenge.
 
And then as we grew old things changed
And children’s laughter became
Something more rare.
 
As those who controlled our lives began to complain.
We weren’t paying our way.
Apparently, whatever that means.
 
And my last child cried as he said goodbye to me
Not knowing how his passing
Sentiment meant so much to me.
 
Because we all knew that our life
Was over now and new a way was to reign.
Small entertainment that was all the same
 
On everyone’s machine.
So why should a mere donkey seem
Worth the while.
 
But I know my life was worthwhile.
As children laughed and thrilled their small glee
Riding me down Blackpool beach.
 
And I made many memories
That console unhappy people
In their contrived lives.
As they remember something more real.
 
Actually,
To be a donkey it seems
Carries so much more appeal
Than being some poor human
In some relentless wheel of commercial
Ideal.
Producing.
 
 

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Snow fall

 
 
I had a home once. With warm fires and warm people and friends and hot food. And a cat, and children.  And problems with neighbours.

Village pub characters knew me, and I was always torn between their welcome, and the given one at home.

But it was all false. Built on sand. Built on an acquired attitude, acquired because it was required in order to be able to compete. Make money, forget about earning it.  Quiet periods in some other pub, on the way home from work, when I could be me between being one person at work and another one entirely at home.

Will my wife be an angel or a devil when I get there? Synthetic when the former, insufferable when the latter.

But my children loved their home.

One winter, it began to snow. And that peculiar silence fell across the village. A sense of expectancy. Or was it more like a balm on sunburned skin? Or Christmas eve perhaps.  As though all those competitive spirits had suspended the game for a few hours, to watch and consider each other for once.

The cat flap flapped, and in walked Sam. He paused, shook one paw daintily before proceeding to his righteous place in front of the blazing fire. One child read quietly in the corner, whilst the younger, three years junior at six, played with his cars, lining them up across the carpet in a precise grid, only to smash the resulting matrix to pieces by hurling his rubber dinosaur at them. Sam took his place by the fire, and I sat on the floor watching them all.

My wife appeared. Both children stopped what they were doing.  The cat stopped purring.  She stopped, and stood still in the doorway, and sighed. In that moment, in that warm room in that warm home, something of the frozen chill outside invaded and touched us all. Something of the future invaded the present, and in hindsight, made it worthless.

‘I want a divorce.’

Dancing orange firelight played amongst the fractal mirrors of frost on the windowpane, and the world felt colder still. My younger son threw one more dinosaur.

———–

Pink dawn light fluoresced though steam rising ever so slowly from the frozen surface of the canal. A solitary bird uttered a note and fell silent again. Smoke oozed from the stack on a nearby narrowboat.  A heap of sacks in front of me stirred and Angie’s face, red and blotchy, appeared from one end. I moved to speak but my beard was frozen to the bench and I had to busy myself freeing it.

A low and watery winter sun appeared, only to emphasise the sagging bellies of low grey cloud hanging over us. By eight o’clock, it was snowing. Big, wet lazy flakes drifting down of their own accord through the quiet air, not driven by any cause or need. I lay there and watched them, and the yellow windows of the narrowboat. Other boats sat further down the canal, each fainter than the other, becoming more grey as mist rising gently from the water obscured the view. In the background, dark hills sat squat and watching.

Angie produced a bottle of whisky from underneath her sacks and offered me some.  She was a good old girl. Heart of gold.

The smell of bacon drifted over from the narrowboat.  The whisky felt good, slipping down warm and softening the world. A noise came from the boat, and a cat appeared. It paused, and then jumped ashore, tail pointing contemptuously upwards at the glowering sky. Its paws left perfect prints in the snow as it walked by.

 
 

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New people

 
 
Bright eyes dulled reveal inner tears
As fledgling wings find the folly of existence.
To flutter in vain against forces unknown
And to break and be wounded
In pursuit of grace.

But bright eyes can also see pure.
And through staying true to their real sense
Can fly high over what we see round us.
By being so pure they can see the real way
Of a world become clouded

To us who have lost how to see.
Subjecting ourselves to our own made poison
That obscures our own natural truth.
World weary we’ve let understanding
Defile the original view.
 
 

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Echoes of a son

 
 
I took him back and he looked at me.
His eyes spoke loud and I sighed and went away.
Nothing I could say.

I live in this garden now.
But he still plays and races and laughs
And I can see him.

Is reality a product of my eyes?
Or is my mind  the true source
Of all mankind and all is what I need it to be.

Is time a process that belies the truth?
That my son still plays here?
My eyes lie but my mind knows better.

Time is just a trick designed to fetter
Our hopes and desires.
I choose to live when things were better.

 
 

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