Not so secret racism

Sometimes certain political parties dare to darken my door with election leaflets. This is what I would say to them if I wasn’t afraid they’d come back later with more friends/big dogs/guns.

2011_04_09_G2826SassenheimNarcisTussenHyacinthen

I am still different

 

My form may conform
to the local norm
as I open the door to your leaflets
that spew forth your bile
against others and strangers,
that warn of the dangers
of letting us in.
I know that within
I’m what you think is so vile
so I smile.

You see,

With malicious glee
I do all those things you’d expect from me.

I take your jobs
and I live in your houses
I sit in your queue for your A&E
I use your library,
Take up space on your bus
I even vote for my local MP

I say “We”.

I watch your news

I stand in your queues
My car appears in your Google Street Views.

I’m using your water
I’m breathing your air
Flush my wee through your sewers
Your pipes are clogged with my hair

best of all:

I made children
bilingual half breeds
growing like weeds
spreading my seeds
my foreign ideas
shooting roots over years
until decades from now
you will look around
and find Britain has changed
is no longer the same
because I changed my name
and staked a claim
on your country, your land.

I’m sure you’ll understand
I’m sure you’ll forgive
You’ll live and let live
Because you don’t need to fight
someone like me, you’d say –
I am okay, I can stay:

I am white.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

 

You can hear me read this at Stephanie Arsoska’s Virtual Open Mic Night.

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I will be wearing nothing but words: poets bare all

Less than a week until I get to meet some of my very favourite writers/bloggers in real life. In honour of this momentous occasion I could post a little profile of myself or show you pictures of the clothes I will be wearing (I can’t, I haven’t decided what to wear and anyway, all my clothes are in the wash), but instead I wrote a poem as a little tribute to all the wonderful writers that I am getting to know.

 

Trauma

 

We stretch out a hand
and leaves turn
reluctant or relieved
to show the shadow-side
of the statue hewn
polished and displayed
for eyes other than our own.

It is no surprise.

What propels us to
page after page
of verse or prose
rhyme, metre, blank,
with plot or not
but a violent reflex
to puke up our pain?

Inside it lurks and eats
until we waste away
but here held in my hand
it is less than nothing
that thing I shape, control,
fashion into ugly,
beautiful, crafted life.

 

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

 

Hope to see all you Prose for Thought and Paper Swans people on Friday!

If you really need to know, I will probably be wearing shoes.

If you really need to know, I will probably be wearing shoes.

Poetry Live: Mother and child and mother times infinity

At Stephanie Arsoska’s most recent Virtual Open Mic Night we were tasked with reading a published poem and one of our own, without saying which was which. There was to be some link in theme or style between the poems, or you could even try to copy or emulate the published poem’s style. The others would listen and guess. I was rumbled straight off, of course, but I challenge you to listen to Sarah Miles read her two poems and pick which one is hers and which one is by a certain famous poet. Go on, have a go.

Meanwhile, here is what I read.

JudithMetIneke1982

Ad infinitum

My joints click your click
My feet step your tread,
In my ring I hear yours ting
against your cup.
My toothbrush-tap is your spoon
playing a tune
on the rim of your mug.
“And now I tap!”
His toothbrush joins a line
that spans life, space and time.

Your irritations are now mine
I tell myself the self-same lies
Hiding behind the same disguise
So too I echo in his whine
Grating on both our nerves
As time rewinds, loops and curves.

Here I stand
And reprimand
Dizzy with a skewed
Picasso-view
I see
versions of me
looking both up
and down at me.
You are in my words,
I speak you at my child,
and understand
where you stand
and stood.
The ought and should
now echo over years
and all the tears,
the fears, the growing pains
and vomit stains
converge
on this point
where I stand
and understand
both child and mother
in my hand.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

 

The published poem I chose is by one of my favourite, but relatively unknown poets here in the UK: Gwen Harwood. I can recommend both her poetry and her laugh-out-loud funny correspondence with her friend Tony Riddell from the days when she worked in a hilarious bureaucratic job in Brisbane, Australia, during the Second World War. These letters were published under the title Blessed CitySo, here she is:

In the Park

She sits in the park. Her clothes are out of date.
Two children whine and bicker, tug her skirt.
A third draws aimless patterns in the dirt.
Someone she loved once passes by – too late

to feign indifference to that casual nod.
“How nice,” et cetera. “Time holds great surprises.”
From his neat head unquestionably rises
a small balloon… “but for the grace of God…”

They stand awhile in flickering light, rehearsing
the children’s names and birthdays. “It’s so sweet
to hear their chatter, watch them grow and thrive,”
she says to his departing smile. Then, nursing
the youngest child, sits staring at her feet.
To the wind she says, “They have eaten me alive.”

(c) Gwen Harwood

 

Why not join in the next Virtual Open Mic Night? It will be on Wednesday 25th of June and it is going to be a Newbie Night! Why not give it a go? You know you want to. Keep an eye on Stephanie’s blog for further details nearer the time.

Linking to Prose for Thought.

Live Poetry: Jelly Fish

Jelly fish

See:
This is not me.

please don’t admire
this alabaster shell, worn smooth
by wind and rain
and other people’s words

please don’t envy me
these spikes I’ve grown
to ward off critics
and keep the truth at bay

please don’t be fooled
by who I wish I were
and who I’d like to be;
my aspirations are not me.

please peel away this shell
and see
the jelly fish inside:

My fears and guilt and doubt
The tears that won’t come out
The things unsaid and jobs not done
All the arguments never begun

See:
this is me.
love this blob
and get me for free
in all my beautiful uncertainty.

 

(c) Judith Kingston

 

You can hear this poem read aloud along with poems by Sarah Miles, Stephanie Arsoska, Helen Braid and Ellie Danak on Youtube.

Linked up to Prose for Thought.

Lost Fish: Films and Fear in pre-school age children

watching a film

Last week while going around LIDL, I spotted some toffee popcorn and had a bright idea. It was time for a film night. We hadn’t really watched a film with The Boy since the endless Muppet-marathon of September last year, and he was probably going to be that much more able to grasp a longer story line now, six months later. I put the popcorn in the trolley.

“When we get home, we’re going to watch a film!” I announced.

“A film!” the Boy cheered.

“Which one would you like to watch: Cinderella, Ratatouille, The Muppets or Lost Fish?”

“Lost Fish!”

Finding Nemo it was.

I should explain that this was a risky venture.

We have made several attempts to have “nice family film nights” (or afternoons) with the Boy, most of which ended in tears. It turns out that Disney is pretty darn scary when you’re only 3. I realised pretty quickly that Ratatouille wasn’t going to happen when in the first five minutes the loveable furry main character is chased into a river by a woman wielding a carving knife and then a shotgun, after which he loses his family, gets lost and ends up homeless and starving in a sewer.

Cinderella took me by surprise, but it turns out a jolly set piece of a cat – with a broad, toothy, menacing grin – chasing a mouse – with an adorable twitchy nose, wearing a jaunty hat – is actually very distressing to a small boy. So Cinderella had to be switched off as well.

I was a little worried about Finding Nemo, to be honest. It starts with a massive great big shark eating the main character’s wife and all but one of his children, after which it goes on a roller coaster ride of separation, misunderstandings and mortal peril until finally, in the very last five minutes, you get your sugar-coated Disney ending and everything is okay. Mostly, my son doesn’t last past those first few heart-stopping minutes.

But he had once seen all of Finding Nemo – admittedly he was ill and drugged up to his eyeballs at the time – and had apparently been left with quite a positive feeling about it. Possibly because he had got to the end and realised all turned out okay. Whatever the reason, he had remembered the film as “Lost Fish” and I thought we’d risk it and I would just make sure I was to hand to comfort him and put things in perspective where necessary.

And the Girl? Over Christmas, when the Boy had been backing away from the television, terrified yet unable to unglue his eyes from the screen while watching the Gruffalo, she was calmly sitting on the sofa watching the story unfold, munching on a bread stick.

“Ah, she’s fearless,” we said to each other, with not a little pride. And that was what we continued to think, watching her try to scale climbing frames and slides meant for much older children, hurling herself through life, running away from us on tiny shoes adorned with strawberries. The Girl is a ninja badass. I didn’t even consider her feelings in my impromptu film night idea.

Finding Nemo was going really well I thought, and I was even able to retreat quietly into the kitchen to cook dinner. Then I heard a familiar whimper of fear. We were now in the midnight zone and Dory and Marlin were being chased by the angler fish.

But it wasn’t the Boy who came running into the kitchen. It was the Girl, padding on her little feet, reaching for me in distress, expressing with her limited vocabulary what the matter was: “Fish!”

And I realised that maybe it wasn’t that she was fearless. Maybe around Christmas time she was still too young, to understand context, to pick up on the implications, the scary music, what those massive teeth might mean, that the little fish she liked were screaming because they were scared of being eaten. And now, three months and a vocabulary explosion later, she had discovered fear.

So I did what any self-respecting parent would do.

I gave her a cuddle, then put her back on the sofa and wrote a poem about it.

 

Enter the World

Your world was safe, cocooned, defined
It was out and underlined
My arms your home
My hair your own
Image sound the world awash with colours friendly noises hugs and hair

You stood up, stepped and turned away
Charged into a world of play
A joke, a game,
You learned your name
Detach break free you ran off tugging me along by painful strands of hair

But with the wonder also crept in fears
New awareness came with tears
New lines to cross
With joy comes loss
Vast scenes and spaces gripping terror of a world without the comfort of my hair

Still I am always there
When dangers send you crying
you come flying to me cooking up some dish
you wail of “sad” and mourn for “fish”
unnamed undefined yet fear of dying
brings you crying hand still reaching
screeching for the soothing comfort
of my hair.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

 

I read this poem at the Virtual Open Mic Night on 25 March 2014 – watch it here!

 

Prose for Thought

C-section, live.

Yesterday, I had the tremendous privilege of being a good friend’s birth partner. This was the first time I had ever done anything like it, and it also happened to be a planned caesarean, something of which I had no experience either. So, naturally, I had to write a poem about it. This one is for you, M.

scrubs

Birth

All I can see is your head
You are strapped to a bed
with what looks like pink parcel tape.

You smile and shiver while unseen
doctors work behind a screen:
to us they’re only sound and shape.

We chat about sci-fi and fantasy
and agree to disagree,
then we fall silent, you close your eyes.

On three hours sleep, you’re looking worn
and out of sight your child is born,
breaking the hush with disgruntled cries.

Birth for me was full of stress,
full of noise and blood and mess.
This gentle stillness is quite new.

I cuddle your daughter, hold her up,
as invisible doctors stitch you up,
and I look at calm and glowing you.

Thanks
for sharing these first moments
as a mother of two.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

Don’t stop here! Look on Prose for Thought for inspiring poetry and prose from talented bloggers.

Waiting for adventure

rainI have been writing this poem for a long time. For six weeks, in fact. I’m not sure if it has actually made it better or worse than the poetry I was churning out in about fifteen minutes flat on a weekly basis before I went back to teaching in September.

Anyway, I mention this to explain why the topic of today’s poem is a tiny bit out of date. It is about how I hate January.

January Carol

Too long it stretches with grey foggy skies
No hidden, glittering gem now lies
In bleak midwinter meadows
Bearing hints of spring
And gleams of hope.

starry Virgin
weary mother
bringing up Immanuel

Stark leafless trees and churned muddy fields
No thrilling adventures the world now yields
Just bloodless exposition,
First chord struck,
The first page turned.

After pains of birth and newborn joys
Comes slogging feeding chaos noise
Through plain days drained of colour
Watching drying paint
And growing child.

changing nappies
washing dishes
destiny seems a fairy tale.

Beyond the horizon veiled from view
The humming prelude of something new
Where long awaited promise blossoms
Layers peeled away
And life reborn.

Glory lies just there, you see?
Forgetting what is past
The ordinary steps will lead
To the thrill of life at last.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014

regen tegenlicht

Photographs (c) Pieter Kroonenberg

Click here to read poetry and prose from an ever increasing community of writers at Prose for Thought.

 

Prose for Thought

A Great Gift

Gods hand

This letter is a tribute to a baby that will forever be 9 months old, found sleeping by her mother a year ago tomorrow.

Dearest Matilda Mae,

I am writing to you on the eve of the anniversary of your death. I have no idea how your family will cope with this day. I don’t know how they cope with nursery runs or supermarket shopping or peeling potatoes, to be honest – I hope that on the anniversary of the day you left they won’t need to do any of those things and they can just spend time being together and remembering you: wonderful you.

You are famous, did you know that? You didn’t stay very long down here on earth, but you have made a massive impact on many, many lives. You have trended on Twitter, you have had fundraisers organised in your name, you have inspired poetry and prose, you have brought about new friendships. You have accomplished more than most people achieve in eighty long years of life, just by being beautiful, adorable you – and by leaving far too soon.

You have changed me, too. When my daughter wakes in the night, more often than not I check my annoyance and frustration and think of you and your wonderful mother – how she must long to be woken in the night by your familiar sounds. You remind me, often, that caring for a small life is a wonder and a privilege, and every moment, night or day, is to be cherished. Who knows how many moments we might have.

I live in one of the teenage pregnancy capitals of the world. Back when I was desperate for a child but none seemed to be forthcoming, the grumpy teen mums on the bus made me furious: they had what I wanted, and didn’t want it. It had “just happened”, an unwanted accident. Those tiny faces in the designer prams, beautiful miracles. It is astounding that any children are conceived at all, so many factors need to line up for it to happen. Every child is a gift, I thought then.

But I was wrong. A child is not a gift.

Although every child enriches its parents’ lives, brings them joy and laughter and cuddles, it is not a gift. Children don’t belong to us. God does not create them for our benefit.

He makes people. The people that he has chosen, that he wants to put into the world for a special purpose.

Matilda Mae, you have done so much. You brought joy to your parents, your brother and your sister while you were with them. Now you are gone, but you are still working in their lives, in their hearts and in the hearts of thousands of people who never even met you, like me. And Esther and William, too, are special people with a special purpose, working at it perhaps a little more slowly than you have done, spending more time.

You are gone but you haven’t left. You are still fulfilling your special purpose. The star, the heart.

I’ll leave you with this. I wrote this for your Mum in a comment on her blog, but I will share it here as it seems appropriate:

The heart.

The single one that binds
the doubles:
the twins, the couple.
The little one to dote on.
Living out joy,
giving out love.

Unimaginable,
the hurt of the heart ripped out,
taken away to be elsewhere.
Your heart is elsewhere.

But the shape of her remains.

Curl round and hug what is missing.
Wrap yourselves around the hole
like a helix.
She shapes your family DNA
as it shaped her
your bodies, your smiles,
your tears, your heart beats,
spell her name
write love letters
to the heart
to Tilda
present in her absence
shaping a future
she won’t be in

loving still
still loved

Tilda.

The heart.

All my love to you and your family on this dark day, Baby Tilda. I am praying for brighter days ahead.

Judith
Letters for Matilda Mae

Write your own poetry

On Tuesday mornings I go to a lovely parenting group in my local area. The aim is to give busy parents a bit of peace and that is exactly what I get from it: we stick the kids in the creche and enjoy a couple of hours of tea and adult conversation. When it first started, we had in depth discussions on parenting issues that troubled us, sometimes even with visiting speakers. Slowly, our program started to lean more towards just chilling out and doing fun things, and this year we have started taking turns sharing our skills with the group. There has been crochet, earring and bracelet making, calligraphy, cake decorating and many more strange and wonderful things.

This week it was my turn, so of course I did a poetry workshop. We wrote shopping lists and turned them into poems, described a friend and wrote rhymes to accompany Christmas presents.

I asked if anyone was willing to share what they wrote with the wider world, and three of the women kindly obliged:

Passion

by Sam

She bursts through the door with her serious face,
her hands moving all over the place.
A little irate she feels this morning
as so far the day has been quite boring.
It doesn’t take long for a smile to appear
She really is funny, it’s just not that clear.

Long Lost Friend

by POG

In the pub car park.
Reading my book.
Ah, now here’s the text,
“Sorry, running late”.
A car speeds in.
A flash of bright scarf.
Haven’t seen for years
But just the same.

My Small Companion

by ACB

Our special time
Protected space
Your cheeky grin

A pile of books
My welcome lap
Quietly sucking fingers

Just one more book
Persistent plea
My boundary pusher

Finish my sentence
Faces, funny voices
My entertainer

Bookworm
Smiler
Fidget
Cuddler
My small companion

My own poem describing a friend is about the lovely woman who runs and supports the Tuesday group. If you are reading this, we all love you and really appreciate everything you give to us.

Selfless Centre

Through the door
we walk, she stands
a cup of tea for you in her hands
Thoughtful, she asks:
“How was the night?
Did your daughter sleep alright?”
She remembers and she cares

We craft we chat
We moan we laugh
And she is there
Listening always
Tactful, fair,
She treasures everything we share.

We say goodbye at the door
and only in the car
– key in the ignition – do I recall
I did not ask about her
at all.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2013

Write your own poetry: Try this at home!

If you want to have a go at writing a poem about a friend, even if you have never written anything before in your life, try this:

1. Think of someone you know. Write down about 8 key words to describe them. Those can be character traits, catch phrases they say all the time, a hobby you share, a place you associate with them.

2. Look at your keywords and try to cull them down to 5. Cross out any words that are too similar to another key word, or that you think don’t really fit with the rest.
My key words for our lovely group leader were:

Welcome
Serve
Support
Kind
Wise

3. Give your five word poem a title. Avoid using the name of the person you are describing. Instead, try and think of a word or phrase that sums them up – or at least the image of them that you are portraying in your poem. I chose “Selfless Centre”, to sum up the idea that came out of the words that our friend is always at the centre of the group, supporting us without asking for anything back.

4. Now use these five words as a draft, a basis for writing something new. Think of a situation you can see your friend in – real or imagined. Describe the situation in a poem, so that it expresses the same image of your friend. In my poem, as you can see, I express the concepts of welcoming, serving, supporting and so on by painting a picture of what she does on a Tuesday morning in a very concrete way. In her poem, Sam managed to literally work most of her original words (eg. irate, serious, funny) into her description of her friend and POG has very simply but effectively sketched herself waiting to meet an old friend.

Have a go! You could even post what you write in the comments below…

Read poetry from other bloggers over at Prose for Thought, hosted by Victoria Welton.