the all-too-familiar gnomes

24Nov10

At a loose end before bed tonight (tired all day and now not at all… just looking out at three-and-a-bit quarters of the moon and feeling sad for my grandfather in hospital, and for the miners’ families) I went through the notebooks (not the diaries) from my years on earth as a 13 and 14 and 15 year-old. Mostly because I knew I had stuck a whole heap of other people’s poetry in there and I wanted to see what it was. Unfortunately it also meant I couldn’t help but accidentally encounter some of my own very early attempts at the poetic form. By god they are awful. Harrowed (then) and harrowing (now).

By the time I reach 15 I seem to have limbered up a bit. I mostly don’t sound like a blender-mangled dictionary, and there’s the surprising glimmer of the occasional okay line (but only in isolation) although it seems that emotionally overwrought (downbeat languor being my particular specialty… no lime-lit hysteria for me) is still the only state I know how to occupy with any confidence (although confidence is completely the wrong word to be using on this 15 year-old poetry attempter). If you can imagine Eeyore with a penchant for florid verse, then you probably have a fair idea of how my, um, adolescent aesthetic manifested… (I’m sure Eeyore would prefer aesthetic to shtick.)    

Anyway, I spent most of the time looking at my elaborate doodles (e.g. the one above) and admiring their ink-penned delicacy and marvelling at the exquisite lengths of time I spent idly spinning them (that’s boarding school for you, probably). Thinking: but my doodles are pretty good. If only the world needed more Elaborate Doodlers.

And (disregarding for the moment a shitload of the requisite Morrissey and Sylvia Plath), there were some interesting things pasted in the notebooks. Including this James K Baxter poem, Ourselves, which Virginia has written in the ‘NOTES’ section of our our old school diaries (I know this because the page says ‘NOTES’) and 15 year-old me has ripped out and stuck into my notebook.

The poem seemed like the perfect (or at least a very timely) expression of reflecting on a time very long ago and trying to make sense of it. It’s all written out in capital letters with only some punctuation. And the house is too dark and it’s too late for me to be finding the poem in book form now, so I will just type it out as-is and hope I am not causing anyone any great offence. (And if I am — well, you should come over and read my old notebooks — the offence would be far worse.)

Ourselves

LOOK BACK TO THE SUNK LAND,

WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND

THE HEDGES THAT WE CLIMBED

WHEN WE WERE CHILDREN



NOT SIMPLE NOW AT ALL,

COWYARD AND WATERFALL

THE BEASTS NO LONGER LIKE

OUR HEAVY STRIDING



TO MOPE ON A HIGH ROCK

HANDS GRIPPED BEHIND THE NECK

THINKING OF FATHERS WISH

(WE ALWAYS DISOBEYED IT)



OR SKULL A LEAKING BOAT

ON WAVES MUCH TOO WET

HOPING THAT MOTHERS BLAME

WON’T WAKE THE KRAKEN



ALL-TOO-FAMILIAR GNOMES

BUMPING IN OUR DREAMS

REMIND US THAT WE HAD

A KEY AND LOST IT



A WAY OF BEING WRONG

YET ABLE TO BELONG

A SENSE THAT ANY BOX

WAS MADE TO BE OPEN



– James K Baxter

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