Thursday, April 19, 2012

Walking On The Beaches, Listening To Golden Brown

Pick a childhood memory was the task, write it as a poem and rewrite as prose. Here it is:

As a pantoum

I’m on the beach throwing stones at the sea
Waves crash, wind whistles, and the seagulls scream
The afternoon sun shining just for me
I was there so I know it’s not a dream

Waves crash, wind whistles, and the seagulls scream
The miasmic heat encourages sleep
I was there so I know it’s not a dream
The sea watches, quiet, lazy, deep

The miasmic heat encourages sleep
It seems time and life are a one way door
The sea watches, quiet, lazy, deep
Last summer day of nineteen eighty four

It seems time and life are a one way door
The afternoon sun shining just for me
Last summer day of nineteen eighty four
I’m on the beach throwing stones at the sea

As prose

“Can we go to the beach?”

“We’ll have to walk.”

So we walked, down to the river, across the little bridge. Through the trees, past the fields full of stubble. Across the road, over the golf course, up and down the sand dunes. Each dune was higher than the next, until finally we glimpsed the sea from the top. Then we ran.

I was just above the breaking waves, examining the stones. That one’s too white, that one too small, this one’s a shell. I found some that were right and threw them.

An hour passed. I followed the retreating tide, stepping carefully over the rounded stones. As the sand was revealed it oozed between my toes, and the smells of salt and rotting seaweed kept up with me wherever I went.

We had a picnic lunch. There were sandwiches and radishes and tomatoes and hardboiled eggs. Why don’t I eat hardboiled eggs any more? I remember breaking them against my forehead, unpeeling them, the dry crumbly yoke, and the slippery, subtly metallic white. Is that those particular eggs, or a more generalised memory?

After lunch my brother rounded us up to play French cricket. The ball kept rolling down the shallow slope, ending up floating in the feeble waves. We played for ages and ages, until after half an hour I mutinied and went and read a book.

At the end I threw more stones, trying to skim them. It took longer, having to search for disc shaped ones up on the shingle banks, then trotting down to where the sea had withdrawn to to spin them, flat side down, across the surface of the sea. I was called away. Next week I will go back to school. This is probably the last summer day on the beach; next time will be grey and cloudy and windy. I liked it like that too, but there won’t be another summer like this.

----
Ninteen Eighty Four was, of course, the name of Orwell's novel, to the extent that, even though this is the actual date (probably) the intertextual reference causes confusion. Of course the rhyming line "It seems time and life are a one way door" is the best one in the poem, so changing it to 1983 or 1985 is not an option (1994 is, but then this is hardly my childhood at all).

Why don't I eat hardboiled eggs any more? Well, in fact I do, but mostly not because you can make an omelette before the water is even boiling.

Like some of the other's pieces these childhood memories are tinged with loss. This, it was suggested, was characteristic of unhappy adults. Thanks for the psychoanalysis. Without necessarily disagreeing, I'll note that we'd moved twice in the last year for the time this was set, so the inevitable emphemerality of the world was on my mind. Both then and now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After getting you out
It was my turn to bat.
But you read a book
You miserable tw"t.