Poems About Childhood And Adolescence
Introduction to Poem One
This first of three poems highlights two incidents between myself and my younger sister, encapsulating, I hope, our relationship as a whole, with closeness and tenderness which we know will always continue, although we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean.
Poem One: Of Walls And Avocados
Guests were aghast to hear my sister ask me,
“Can we play “bang my head against the wall?"
Admittedly, it seemed an odd request
To those who did not know its history;
But once they understood, they laughed with us.
It started when, during a romp and play,
I tapped her head against the kitchen door.
Then, horrified, I told her I was sorry.
She said, “I liked that; do it more, OK?”
“You might get hurt.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“Because I know you’d never hurt me.”
Touched by her trust, I taped a sofa pillow
Onto a wall. Then, sure it was secured,
Captured her head, then tapped it on that cushion,
With jungle growls.
A few years later, drawn to things holistic,
I happened on an avocado cream,
Which smoothed skin as it soothed one into sleep,
By fragrances of fruits and jasmine flowers.
My sister asked, much as she had before,
“Will you put avocado on my face?”
Even on days when squabbles led to tears,
However long we might have sulked in silence,
Come evening, she would ask, a little shyly,
“Are you too mad at me for avocado?”
“You don't deserve it.”
Will you, anyway?”
And so I would, as aggravation waned,
Now, though half a century has passed,
Through all the joys and frictions life entails,
Either of us might start a chat or note,
Introduction to Poem Two
Adolescence can sometimes feel overpowering given the conflicting flow of hormones and acceptable conduct. This proved especially true at a time when eroticism, even in thought, was somewhat discouraged by the adult world. The boy in this poem, emerging towards manhood, struggles with fantasy, guilt and confusion.
Pain is a teacher from whom we can learn much.— John Powell
Poem Two: Sad Education
Such Joy, so easy for Dave to imagine
Touching that skin inside the linen dress,
Off-white, seed pearls around its wrists and shoulders.
Those pearls on her right shoulder looked uneven.
Might she have sewn them on, and maybe woven
The dress by hand? It seemed she might have done so.
That skin, so near, so quick for him to reach,
And yet, he understood it could not be;
Although no more than twenty-two or three,
She was his teacher.
Jarred by the morning bell, she started slightly,
Then hesitated, drew a breath, and said,
“Hello, I’m Lily Ross-Miss Ross of course.
I’m an American, as you can hear,
But understand that, here in the UK,
Students call female teachers “Miss”.
“We call them lots of other names as well,”
Said Rufus, from his seat in the front row.
At that, she reddened mildly, then replied,
“If that is your idea of being clever,
You have my sympathy. Now, let’s begin.
I see you’re studying assassination,
Its causes and their aftermath. Last year,
When President Kennedy was shot and killed,
The horror of that crime so shocked the nation
A sense of anguish haunts America,
With sadness bound to linger for some while.”
She halted, overwrought, before resuming,
“Would any of you like to tell me where
You left off in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar?”
Dave ached to answer, “Line seventeen, Act two, Scene one.”
But felt afraid. Next day, she might be gone,
Leaving him, like a turtle with no shell,
Pelted by Rufus and his followers,
As a brown nosing twit and teacher pleaser.
In recent weeks, he had become immune
To jibes of “egg-head, ugly runt. and scrawny moron”;
He must not weaken.
Miss Ross, aware no answer was forthcoming,
Turned aside to scrutinize the scrawl
Their real teacher wrote as a note for her.
Bringing it towards the window for more light,
With the slight bending of this Lily’s stem,
The sunlight made her dress seem cream in color.
By habit, Dave had just refilled his pen,
As he did before each morning’s lesson.
How quick it would be if he were to spray.
Surely she would not notice for some while,
Then when she did, she doubtless would blame Rufus.
Oh yes, that was a thought Dave liked to savor.
Gripped by this wish, as by its own volition,
His pen spewed out the fluid it contained,
And then lay, emptied.
Soon after, she turned back to face the class,
Announcing with a hint of victory,
“I’ve found the place, so now we can begin.
Each one of you will read a part out loud.
Will any of you volunteer for Brutus,
Or will I need to choose someone to play
With a few groans, textbooks began to open.
Dave reached for his own, keeping his head lowered.
How could he deem himself superior
To louts he had despised as crude and coarse,
When what he had done rendered him far worse-
A cheat, a coward.
Introduction to Poem Three
Dinosaurs and Dragons
All too often, parents do not understand the damage caused by giving one child more praise and affection than others. The resulting hurt and rage can create emotional harm lasting throughout adulthood. When overwhelming, resentment of a favored sibling can manifest itself in fantasized or genuine harm.
Poem Three: Dinosaurs And Dragons
They always take my brother, Andrei, with them,
To theaters, parks, those places families go.
It must be fun for him; I wouldn’t know.
Mom tells me, “You’re happy staying home with Grandma,
Where you can paint or draw all afternoon.
Since Grandma has been widowed, she feels lonely,
So you’re good company for one another.”
Grandma brings me plates of tarts and muffins,
Then sets them down beside my drawing pad.
I eat them, though I barely taste those pastries,
But just keep gorging so she’ll bring me more.
Once, Dad asked, glancing from my sketches,
“Why do your pictures look so bleak and dull?
If you could draw one piece in cheering colors,
I’d hang it in my study; can’t you try?”
I do try brighter tints and softer shades,
But when I showed it to him, he looked sad.
Believing I had done it to defy him,
He shrugged and said, “Fine, draw your dismal stuff.”
“You’re looking fatter every day,” Mom said one morning,
Seeing me dressed in my school uniform.
“You have a fine face, but you seem determined
To shame us in whatever ways you can.
What made you try to ruin last night’s dinner?
The Bennett’s and the Larkspurs know you well,
So why did you disrupt the conversation
To say, “I’m Roland.” then, as if no-one had heard,
You said it once again, a little louder,
I buttoned my coat needlessly, then said,
“I guess I felt like no-one seemed to notice.”
“Self-pity was it? That’s ridiculous. Now, as to Andrei ...”
I snatched my satchel and rushed out the door,
Before she had a chance to voice those things
That make me hate him.
He keeps his Belgian accent rich and lilting,
So if a pause goes on too long at dinner,
He might say, “Speaking of dinosaurs,”
Which, as no-one was, they find delightful,
Or anyway, they make believe they do,
Which seems to be the same for grown-up people.
Although I sit, as if invisible,
I have my weapon.
There lurks a dragon in my soul; I know
My hero brother is afraid of water.
He claims he simply does not care to swim,
But I know better, hearing him at night,
Reliving terror from our ocean crossing,
Escaping Belgium for America.
Caught in his dream, he thinks our boat is lost,
And he is being swallowed by the sea.
I switch our night light on to end his fear.
Some nights, I sit beside him for awhile.
Seeing him huddled, shaking, scared and small,
I almost like him.
But then, the dragon in my fantasy,
Roars to remind me.
When I’m deemed old enough to take a boat
Onto the lake, with Andrei as my crew,
I will persuade him to come sailing with me.
Once on the water, several miles from land,
A wind or fog will make the boat tip over.
Then I will watch him flail and hear him scream,
Not in his dream, but real, awake and drowning,
While I, the fat boy, glide away towards shore.
They always take my brother everywhere;
That day, I’ll stop them.
© 2015 Colleen Swan