Where I Grew Up - Poem by Sean Joyce
In the distance the minor peaks of minor mountains
came and went in the frequent rain.
The same rain that kept everything green
flowed into the river and on into the lake.
One road led to the big city
and for a long time I believed that
the other two were connected in some way
such that if you left on one
you would shortly reappear on the other.
I said ‘town’ but we never called it that,
nor indeed did we call it a village.
Village would have been too grand and even
the word 'grand' would have had to be said
in a high faluting voice so you could
distance yourself from such pretensions.
We were also without the word ‘afternoon’.
It seems strange now but for some reason
events went straight from morning, through
dinnertime and into the evening.
The evening was followed by the night
after which it all started again
in a way that was satisfying for a child
and comforting in a homely sort of way.
The place had many faces
a Saturday face, a Sunday face
a Monday-to-Friday face and
best of all, a Fair-Day face.
Saturday was for playing
Sunday for praying, a bit anyway
and Monday-to-Friday was for School.
School has to have a capital letter when you’re a child
and School was such a big part of our lives
that all other activities had to find space
(Did anyone ever find the lowest common denominator?
Did someone somewhere finally establish
what the highest common multiple was?
I hope so but I lost touch as the years went by.)
Of course all of that was knocked awry
during the lovely long six weeks of Summer
holidays when almost everyday became a Saturday
and we had to go out and look for things to do
just to pass the time.
One of our favourite things to do
was to make a boat out of a cardboard
box some sticks and bits of string.
We would launch the boat
as far up the river as allowed
then run along beside it shouting
at it and at anyone who saw it
asking them to notice
what a fine boat it was.
Just before the boat left our area
of control we would pelt it with
stones and try to destroy it before
it fell into the hands of enemies
whom we presumed were
Sunday was interesting
you had to decide which
church service to go to
-nine AM or eleven AM
and that was determined by
who you wanted to see and
what plans had been made
for the rest of the day.
We had to go to church so we went
and like most people we knelt
stood, sat then knelt again.
I presume we learned to
be quiet there and to reflect.
To reflect on life and on
the faces of our neighbours
also on the other girls
and boys reflecting there.
It was the fashion then
for girls to wear ponytails
and to have them held up and
fall out from the top of
the rolled up knitted
hats they wore.
There was nothing
on God's earth as eye catching
as the tilt of a ponytail.
And the question became
did she see me, did she look?
Did she glance and dismiss
or did she look a lifetime.
Comments about Where I Grew Up by Sean Joyce
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