Biting baby blues

We’re rocking teeth
More shocking news
Our shoes won’t fit
Our socks we lose

We climb as high
As we can reach
And make the most
Unholy screech

We don’t sit still
May throw our food
And roll around
When in a mood

With grabby hands
And strong-willed walk
The vulnerable
We now stalk

That thing you smell…
Our butt don’t lie
Some nose-to-mattress
Lullaby

If you want sleep
You’d best be dead
Small half-moons mark
The path ahead

And will we tire
Or do as told?
Hell no! We’re just
As good as gold!

We three kings

What can I give you
But words from my lips
A breath for your lungs
The breadth of my hips

To feed you and clothe you
And shelter you there
Our hope for the future
Small star that we share

In misunderstandings
All foster more strife
Too coy for the joy
Of a conflict-free life

No formal pronouncements
Of greatness to be
We limit announcements
To those we can see

In feeble concealment
Until you are grown
We’d raise you for strength
A mind of your own

And watching your progress
Will whisper as one
The charms that may comfort
Your sorrows to come

With hands in my pockets
Concealing all pain
I’d walk through the desert
To find you again

Giraffe

What kind of world
Will you inhabit
Once we are gone?
Will it be one
Of your own choosing?
New landscapes built
To youthful specifications,
A virtual world, or
Precarious solidity shaped
From the concentration
Of old-fashioned
Children’s toys – perhaps even
Those blue-and-red-stained
Wooden blocks
Of my infancy?
Will our groaning,
Grown-up legacy
Of piecemeal policies,
Poor housing, health,
And knee-jerk reactions
To old threats,
Half-remembered
Leave you with
Too little freedom
And too much responsibility?
However our teachings
Soak into your bones
It will be your turn
To roll the dice
And seek advancement
Or oblivion.
I hope we leave you
Prepared
And with sufficient
Tools to survive
What is
And what is yet
To come.

Leadership Training

Welcome dear, to the asylum
Where the grown-ups are not in control
Mummy’s out chasing a rainbow
Daddy is home but not whole

So what do we do with our brother
Who needs to be petted and fed?
Just sisters supporting each other
When parents don’t get out of bed

If you grab a hold by one ankle
Then I’ll take the other and try
To tease out the worst of the tangle
Then soap, rinse and powder him dry

I’m sorry your tummy is grumbly
There isn’t the money for S’mores
I’ll find what I can if you’re hungry
And we’ll have a picnic indoors

I guess we’re not going out playing
While youngest’s a hole in her shoe
I’ve mended the bits that were fraying
But darning the rubber won’t do

Besides which it’s no longer summer
And coats are too short in the sleeve
So even the common’s a bummer
With chilblains it’s better to leave

The exercise video’s starting
We’ll all sit together to stretch
Now reach for your toes if you’re hurting
And think of the rich and the wretch

If we can just keep it together
As family’s good for the soul
There’s almost no storm we can’t weather
To pursue an impossible goal

So try not to pick up your plimsolls
Don’t want anybody to know
If they catch a glimpse of the cardboard
When walking along in the snow

Then mummy and daddy are over
They’d ship us all out to a home
And though there’d be food there forever
We’re better off here on our own

Hedgehog

I once moved country
With a sleeping bag
A dictionary
Two dresses
A blue t-shirt
One pair of jeans
And a change of underwear
To live in a nine foot
Square box with no
Toilet or fridge
I cooked ravioli
In the tin over
A five euro
Electric kettle
And washed both
Food and clothing
In the bidet
Entertaining friends
One at a time
As I acquired
A single mug
With no handle
Singing songs
With strangers
Who were also
Far from home
So do not dare
To presume
That I will permit
Myself to acknowledge
The inconvenience
Of personal growth
There are other things
Upon this Earth
That chafe

Self-Censorship

There’s nothing wrong with ‘language’, –
To communicate’s the key
So why restrict the ones vereicht
(For many words begin with C)
Come, clarity can conquer crude
Catastrophe of cant
Through substitution of a vowel
It’s obvious what’s meant
When ranting on the topic of
Her least-admired slot
The poetry of metaphor
Reveals what is not
So obvious an object, yet
With strong component parts
Even ingenue construes it too –
What’s hidden of our hearts.
Pray, do not scold our children
As they strive to master terms
Still unfamiliar to those
Well-versed in Chinese burns
The patois of the playground
May be where they first attempt
Expansion of vocabulary
Mastery of feint
And tossing out tame adjectives
Must call a tool as speyed
With far more sense of phrasing
They’ll be that much less afraid
Of talking through their tensions
And timing out their tries
To test the twists and turns of tongue
That trip us up with ties
Inherent to our thinking
The second we’re quite grown
Abandoned truth that stank of youth
We posit the unknown
To bore for Merrie England
While chewing over fat
Discussing nothing needlessly
In stultifying chat
Quite lacking in all substance
Exotic or uncouth
Consigning dreams and hopes and schemes
To corners, dumb, aloof

Out-growing

Those long-hair days of wild and free
While young did not come easily
I grew into my genes too late
To benefit from youthful state

But learned the songs with all the rest
While others danced in pants and vest
As I kept covered awkward shape
They blossomed, trawling fashion’s wake

The skimpy morals of my peers
Confirmed my parents’ base-born fears
Thus all attempts to overcome
My shyness, foiled as they’d begun

No makeup, heels, short skirts for me
No skinny jeans or baby tee
The rare events I did attend
Kid sister came to shed each friend

As chaperone she proved effective
Showering with much invective
Any mate in whom she’d sensed
My interest, until offense

Was taken by so many there
No longer welcomed anywhere
I sought my solace by myself
Content to moulder on the shelf

In preference to company
For self-defence relied on me
Until the day I’d saved enough
To leave them all to guard my stuff

I barely spoke at home, it seems
While every thought throughout my teens
Was monitored by blood relations
All in hope of revelations

Youth began at twenty-one
As finally in search of fun
I left my childhood far behind
To see what joy there was to find

The odd one out

Thirtysomething, sane and settled
With a house, a partner, cat
Suddenly in hostile ground
‘Mid twentysomethings’ silly spat

No compassion, new companion
Spent a decade, getting fat
Understanding sorely lacking
Image all, or on the mat

Children playing games and cracking
Jealous, unprepared for that
Which comes to those who seek a reason
To offend a stranger, flat

And yet may age bring more than wisdom
Social skills, a bit of tact
To end a quarrel, out of season
Takes a woman, not a brat

A trudge down Memory Lane

Giraffes do not grow on trees, well, not according to my Dad, anyway.

I miss the colourful hilarity of childhood, way back when the height of misery meant the red crayon had rolled under the fridge and I couldn’t reach a wooden spoon to poke it out again. I remember being excited to the point of hysteria by a new yellow umbrella, and feeling no guilt at toothbrushing sans-paste when it had mysteriously fallen off the brush and gone down the plughole, not stopping to greet the teeth on the way. Mum always knew when the fluoride had reached its destination as I would spend at least half an hour spitting like a camel and dramatically gargling water all over the bathroom floor to try to rid myself of my new, abhorrent ‘minty-fresh’ breath, then stomping downstairs bad-temperedly to demand something to ‘take the taste away’.

I remember halcyon days in shades of orange with such wonderful sports as ‘puddle-jumping’, and wading through wet, smelly piles of leaves, kicking up clouds of muddy mulch as we marched; long, dusty summers when we drew epic masterpieces on pavements with a sharp stone.

Old age makes fools of us all, and even our childrens children will believe that fifteen is the height of senility, with older siblings’ faces resembling an Hawaiian pizza, preferring to sleep all day, locked up alone in a darkened room, listening to angry white noise, rather than braving the warm violence of sunlight and risking untravelled hormones loose in the outside world.

Ah, adolescence, that fun-filled decade of emotional turmoil, strange sensations, sights, sounds, smells and swellings. Bubonic plague condensed to 5’4″ and made to suffer the indignity of sharing a bathroom with no lock on the door. Discovering that Christmas brought nicely wrapped, clearly expensive zit-medication, a baggy jumper in bottle-green from Aunt Matilda (nothing too tight, dear, while they develop), and pink fishnets from Uncle James.. thinking Uncle James was cool for all of five seconds before Auntie Rose started on him with long words like ‘inappropriate’, and ‘juvenile delinquency’ and you realised that pink fishnets were only being worn this season by 45 year old moustachio’d Bank Managers known as Mandy on weekends..

Kids grow up so fast, gushed some family friend who hadn’t bothered to drop in and see you since you were five, as you cringed, sighed, and tried to get comfortable in clothes held together by far too many safety pins on the lumpy chair you had insisted on throwing yourself into. You may never have gotten around to actual nose-removal, but self-imposed discomfort through spite was a common theme among the terminally uncool.

I look back these days and I even reminisce over my agonies of exams. Three hours spent scratching away in yesterday’s unwashed, unironed school uniform, with dirty hair and inky fingers, wondering what sadist ever thought up slow death by sports-hall sock-smell suffocation and quadratic-equation-queasiness.

And the hell didn’t end with results day. Work experience was to follow. Three weeks of sheer pointlessness pretending to be learning about the world of work while not reaping any of the benefits of the Saturday job you’d had for the past three years (no pay packet for starters, and having to make endless hot beverages for strangers).

Ah, how we suffered, the agonies and indignities both in the name of education. But it was all worth it, that glorious day of liberation. University arrived, and we were so very ready for it, anxious to throw off the restrictive shackles of clean sheets, enforced hygiene, regular, balanced meals..

On we charged, returning home in the holidays to discover that life had somehow gone on without us. Siblings had claimed any items we had rashly abandoned, and what corners of the parental home we had once called our own had been painted and filled with the ‘tasteful’ (unwanted) Christmas presents no one had seen for years, and a lot of cheap shelving to house them.

Most worrisome of all was the seeming lack of caring of our recently-bereaved of our presence-parents. Those bedrocks of familial pride, who after a cursory search for drugs, and a declaration that we were old enough to do our own washing, didn’t bother to go so far as to raise their voices to impose a curfew. And these the carping adults who had brandished the whip all through school, driving us ever onward to new heights of geekery in the name of learning!

A fighting inheritance

Give me strength, my father cried
I as a child, of course, complied,
And to his will, this willow bent,
Not understanding discontent.
But now I’m grown, his mood I ken,
I ‘get’ the strops of gentle men:
Dissatisfied with what they’ve got
Yet little work to change their lot.
I hope in future my own kin
Will know enough, not let me win,
But challenge me in time of need
And push to overcome my greed.
I know myself, I know my power,
Yet hope my kids upon their hour
Of struggle, mine will overcome
That they may triumph, have some fun.
And in old age, their wisdom find,
Choosing then to know their mind.
Not seeking ever-young to stay,
But give the youth their precious day.