As we, that are left, grow old…

Worn brown slippers pause their shuffle
as he peers past his weathered reflection
to a face forever stilled
in a smile of sweet affection.

Her teasing laugh plays through his mind
like a well-loved vinyl record,
clouded with static and scratches,
but for that, no less adored.

Faded carpet leads to a breakfast nook,
set with a single chair
against lightly patterned linoleum cracked
with the rigors of time and wear.

Habit has him reaching for oatmeal
that he sweetens just a smidgeon
with brown sugar even though the truth is
that taste is yet another lost religion.

Twisting the knob on the radio,
just to break the silence that bears weight,
he rubs blacking with a repurposed rag,
then suit and shoes are donned, tugged straight.

Stepping from the car, he nods and shakes hands
with reflexive courtesy born of age,
and plays his part with the unwelcome polish
of repetition on a tragic stage.

The bugle’s melancholic notes pierce
a weary heart, but men are stoic
and do not weep, do not show fear,
do not shame medals that claim heroic.

Back home, he removes the poppy
and replaces the medals with respect and care,
and sits down to another meal for one
in his solitary kitchen chair.

Memories play to a soundtrack
of the drone of an engine and the crack of guns,
and he refuses to feel self-pity
for he was one of the lucky ones.

My writing background

Prompt: How did you start writing?

I’m fairly sure I’ve covered this in my blog before. Maybe not even that long ago? I was probably rambling about something that wasn’t even that related to the prompt. Oh, no, I think I remember what it was. It was in the interview I did. That’s right. Okay, well minor recap then for anyone who is still interested.

I started keeping a journal and writing (bad) poetry in my teens. I was definitely writing both by 14. Not sure what originally inspired either. Maybe a boy? I got my first boyfriend when I was 14. I was definitely journalling before we got together though, because I know my journal is all ‘I think we’re together now, oh, no we’re not, yes we are.” Ugh. Teenage girls are so stupid. For that matter, so are teenage boys. He wouldn’t date me because I swore too much. At that time I didn’t even drop the f bomb. He objected to me saying such things as ‘He’s such a dick.’ He considered that swearing. Somehow we still ended up as boyfriend and girlfriend (maybe because I was too stubborn to give up?) and we were together for about two years. Sorry, a bit of a tangent there. So my earliest journal entries are about high school and Jason. Mostly Jason. Although Chelsea is in there quite a bit, as best friends are wont to be.

Some of my early poems were about Jason, but I mostly wrote about people and things that were currently happening. I loved writing them on scout camps and I’d mention everyone and something they did or some characteristic or personality aspect that was prominent. People enjoyed them, even though I look back on them now and think they’re total shit. I used to write poems about living on the farm and the peace and scenery there. I’m certain I wrote poems about Chelsea. And of course about the usual teenage girl angst. Bearing in mind that I was not your normal teenage girl. I wasn’t very girly at all. In fact, I was often mistaken for being a boy right up until I was 17 (which is saying something because I have never had a boyish figure). I wrote about that once, too. I reckon if identifying as another gender had been something that was done in those days, I’d have identified as male. Seriously. I just didn’t know it was a thing. You were born with girly bits, you were a girl. That’s just how it was. I hated being a girl. I know that I’ve got a poem somewhere that’s titled ‘I should have been a boy’ or something similar. I really hated that I’d been born a girl. Girls were stupid. And they had boobs and periods, which was just gross. Boys were more interesting, and they didn’t have periods or boobs. So yeah, there was that.

Sorry, gone off tangent again. Writing. My mother used to write, but not often. When we were living in England she kept a journal. I don’t know why she didn’t keep one when we lived in New Zealand. Maybe she thought normal, everyday life in New Zealand wasn’t interesting enough, whereas in England we were tourists and often out exploring different parts of England. We were there for 18 months. She also wrote poetry, but generally speaking, only in birthday cards. At least, those are the only ones she’s shown me. She did once show me a poem she’d written about Dad, when they were living in Asia, so maybe she writes more often than she lets on.

Actually, speaking of Dad, I believe he wrote at least one song. *Pthb* I distinctly remember that the woman in the song had different colour eyes to Mum. *Shock*

I started off writing simple rhyming poetry, which is the style my mother used. Then in high school I picked up Chelsea’s style of poetry which didn’t have line breaks. It wasn’t quite prose poetry either though. More like free verse without line breaks. It’s probably not even poetry by defined standards. It was… What do you call it when you just write without censoring yourself or thinking or whatever? No, I’m not talking about my rambling blog posts! *Rolling* Mind something. I tried to google it and came up with free writing. Which it is, but we used to call it something else. When your brain just explodes onto the page. Mind dump? No… Maybe it wasn’t mind anything. Anyway, Chelsea and I used to call them monologues. I wasn’t as good at them as she was. She had a real ‘free spirit’ personality and was always true to herself, whereas I was always worried about what people would think of me and wanted people to like me. Everyone loved her, so I wanted to be like her, so I would consciously try to write like her. Which is the exact opposite purpose of the exercise, right? *Facepalm*

My first foray into writing stories was to take existing stories and revise them. Like, I’d read a book, then I’d change the ending or give one of the characters a slightly different personality. I don’t have any of my early stories. In fact, I think the earliest story I have that I wrote entirely on my own is from 1996 when I was 16. Actually, that’s way earlier than I thought. But it’s not really a story. Well, it’s a true story. So it kinda doesn’t count. The earliest fictional one is from 1998 when I was 18. It’s quite short, and written in first person. Basically, it’s me daydreaming about pretending to be shot while in a debating class. *Rolleyes* Yeah… *Blush* Aside from that, I think the next earliest fictional story I have that I wrote on my own is from 2012 when I was 32. Wow. That’s a really long gap! I do have a bunch of silly stories that are similar in style to interactives. One person would write a paragraph, then another person would, then another person. Most don’t make any sense, because you were only allowed to see the last word of the previous paragraph in some cases. In others, you could read more and they made more sense. Chelsea and I did a whole bunch of those in our teens, and I still have some of them.

I’m not sure if I can attribute my ‘start’ in writing to one person. Maybe Mum, but honestly, I so rarely saw her write anything that I’m not sure that was it. I did like her style of poetry though. Through my teens, Chelsea was by far and away the biggest influence on my writing. And even into my 20s. I only started blogging because of Chelsea. True story. And her journals, which I only saw when we were flatting together in 1999-2000 (no idea if she even kept journals before then) were so creative that I desperately wanted to make some that looked the same. *Blush* Then I found Writing.com and the people were so encouraging. When I re-joined Writing.com in 2010 is when I really truly stepped out of my comfort zone and started learning and experimenting, and I learned so much from so many people. And that’s a whole other blog entry!

She spoke memories

She spoke of home in hushed whispers,
far away eyes caught on a memory of Christmas sparkles,
flashes of multi-coloured hues,
framed by snow that resembled icing
dripping
from a perfect story-book gingerbread house.

She spoke of warming chilled hands on mismatched mugs of
mulled wine, redolent with heady scents of cinnamon and
anise, sensuously entwined with underlying fragrances of
pine, roast potatoes, ham glazed with ginger marmalade, and
fruit mince generously soaked in brandy from a dusty bottle.

She spoke of hand-sewn stockings hanging from
a mantelpiece supporting an assorted collection of
cards stuffed with well wishes, above a fireplace
that crackled and popped with an authenticity conveying
warmth and tradition.

She spoke of balls of crumpled wrapping paper,
torn edges in greens, gold and crimson, interspersed with
discarded lengths of clumsily curling ribbon,
that told their own tale of thoughtfulness, of preparation,
of satisfaction and excitement.

She spoke of home and a scene
so unfamiliar
and yet I knew I’d seen it before in
a hundred movies and on
a thousand greeting cards so unsuitable
for my own holiday season.

18 ways to appreciate New Zealand

I

Far from where Hillary ‘knocked the bastard off’,
rise peaks that conquer the horizon,
beckoning the intrepid, the brave,
the fatally ill-prepared…

 

II

Some sleep, undisturbed by the passing eons,
while others hiss and belch, spewing molten rock
and ash to splatter and scar their slopes.

 

III

Taupo, youngest global supervolcano,
hides simmering tantrums ‘neath waters
stocked with trout, tempting fishermen
and complacency.

 

IV

Glittering black sands,
remnant from Waitakere
(cremated long before records began),
provide vivid contrast to
golden east coast beaches.

 

V

Rolling green hills,
dotted with the white and tan splotches of livestock,
send a soul-deep sense of peace.

 

VI

Small-town hospitality, local bands
playing gigs in community halls,
that brogue that strengthens
as you head south, and the simplicity of rural life.

 

VII

Civilised society with an English veneer
and a quirky sense of spunk and survival
in Christchurch.

 

VIII

Wellington takes no prisoners, with
a brusque wind and a taste for politics.

 

IX

Auckland fancies itself a careful blend of
high society, expensive coffee, smashed
avocado and nightclubs for those who overindulged…
on caffeine.

 

X

Wines, from Waiheke, Waitakere,
Marlborough and beyond… Sumptuous reds,
bold whites, and delicate rosés
to satisfy the reveller,
the amateur and the truly discerning palate,
no’ necessarily in that order.

 

XI

The commuter ferries from Waiheke and Devonport
just a few of the boats on the Hauraki Gulf,
‘city of sails’ no misnomer.

 

XII

Fishermen catch kai moana for dinner,
a staple of New Zealand cuisine
(fine dining meets fush and chups)
and embedded into local culture and lore.

 

XIII

Sampling Maori tradition,
barefoot on a marae,
surrounded by towering wooden sculptures that
speak of ancestors and times long past.

 

XIV

The haka following the national anthem,
an acoustic display of might rattling
the stadium before another All Blacks
Rugby World Cup triumph.

 

XV

Endless black skies that reveal
the astonishing Southern Lights or
the Southern Cross constellation amid
starlit heavens.

 

XVI

Moreporks and kiwi send calls through the night,
until dawn brings the plethora of birds
that dominate the aural landscape.

 

XVII

Imagination abounds in Middle Earth,
where wannabe hobbits sip ale at
the Green Dragon Inn and stumble home
to houses under hills.

 

XVIII

Adrenaline soars as bungee cords snap back,
rafts plunge down waterfalls,
and parachutes float
far above New Zealand.