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by James Graham 

Posted: 06 March 2015
Word Count: 184
Summary: Sorry, not a new poem; inspiration failed. Previously published in EDP. But I thought I would give it another airing. It's a little like 'The Last Goodbye', a traumatic childhood experience.

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When I was six, I tumbled down
the rabbit-hole with Alice. I loved
the tetchy caterpillar, and the Turtle.
I could have put that Hatter in his place,
and told a better story than the dormouse
- treacle-well, indeed! - that would have had
the three of them transfixed - and thankfully,
speechless. Oh, and it was always six!
Always the day’s best moment, always tea-time.
Over the fields from school, the pretty cows
heads down and busy. In the hungry hour
I used to draw real trees, not lollipops
but tapered trunks and webs of twigs
and shaded clouds beyond. Birds, though,
I never got quite right, made only two or three
far off. One day, in that same hour,
my father brought six kittens to be drowned.
We held them under water by the scruff,
two by two, till the bubbles stopped.
That done, and the corpses buried,
ten minutes before the hour of six
I took another drawing-sheet, and drew
a Cheshire cat with jagged stripes,
its mouth an m that used to be a bird,
turned over, venomously grinning.

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Comments by other Members

Bazz at 14:02 on 07 March 2015  Report this post
Hi James, the fifth stanza here is really powerful, such a memory would haunt and linger with anyone, nevermind with a six year old! This really cuts through the rest of the poem, which puts us entirely at ease, so much so I wonder if it wouldn't be better to begin with this stanza, but then the contrast is what makes it so upsetting. Powerfully written.

FelixBenson at 14:08 on 07 March 2015  Report this post
Hi James

What a fantastic poem.
I love the way this poem travels from that starting point of Alice in Wonderland. This book is a very rich point of reference from which to understand and explore what is feels like to be a child, to grow up, changes in perspective and how the world is made sense of (which the lines about drawing are a very good metaphor for). Plus the poem links to the number six in inventive ways. It's surprising how these different aspects mesh together. The way the storyline of Alice incorporates 6, teatime and the matter of fact drowning of the six kittens just before teatime, which gives us the slightly darker turn in the final stanza. I like the way the birds are drawn with an m - I forgot about that! And how that's turned upside down into a mouth of a ominous cheshire cat,surely the most sinister character in Alice. There's lots in here, it's a very rich poem. I think to some degree its about a search for meaning or understanding whilst growing up - like the story of Aice. How absurd and strange the world can be. How perspectives are subtly changed.

I just noticed this poem by chance, James.

So that everyone knows who has entered the Flash weekly challenge, we usually put a link to our own poem under the thread for the challenge (http://www.writewords.org.uk/groups/99_455951.asp) then commenters can work their way through each entry. Might be worth adding it in to ensure everyone in the group realises you've entered the challege? I don't mind the new WW layout, but I do think it's easier to miss new poems.



crowspark at 10:30 on 08 March 2015  Report this post
I like this a lot, James. Good use of the the six theme. The kitten incident horribly fitting  in with Alice in Wonderland and that memorable image of the Cheshire cat

V`yonne at 12:48 on 08 March 2015  Report this post
The kittens reminiscent of Heaney's kittens in Digging James and quite a horrible and yet childishly ghoulish thing. How that translates onto the page as a loss of innocense and m  for murdered birds, an acquaintance with the world's cruelty, is powerful and disturbing. From light to dark at six.

James Graham at 21:51 on 08 March 2015  Report this post
Thanks for the positive comments. Quite a lot of people have read this poem, not only in WW, and I've found there's a side to it that readers - understandably - don't always get. Having to help drown kittens at the age of six was distressing, but only because it was my first time. When I was a few years older I used to do the job myself without turning a hair! It was a very rural place, and there was (maybe still is) an unsentimental attitude to cats. You had to keep the numbers down. They would go feral surprisingly easily - just decide to go off and live in the woods. And they multiplied like...well, almost like rabbits.

An excellent new challenge, Kirsty. Must find a female poet I've not read before - interesting in itself - then take a line and try to do something respectable with it.


V`yonne at 01:03 on 09 March 2015  Report this post
Well James it was goldfish for me. But somehow I never learned to harden -- never did -- even to fish! And then I helped kill and cook a rabbit in France. It wqas just what they did...  that should've made me a vegetarian maybe but NO -- so I get it completely but I am unsure WHY! blush

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