Underneath the Horse Chestnut Tree

We scattered mum over where her sister lay

My Father seemed smaller somehow as my Brother,

Ready to catch him at any moment,

Walked him out of the churchyard

Beneath the archway where he had once kissed her

 

The world seemed silent just for them

The sky had grabbed the clouds and held them still,

And the wind and the birds and the trees all held court

As they paused beneath the horse chestnut tree

Opposite the school where mum had served us dinners in the hall

And applied band-aids and cuddles on the playground

Then they collapsed into the car and drove away

 

I stayed behind. We needed to talk.

“I’m so angry at you” I said

But, of course, I wasn’t

Not at her. Not anymore

 

And so I knelt in the cool and comforting grass

And I plunged my fingers into the earth

And held her in my fingers for one last time

And I wept tears of pleading

And I howled for the dogs to hear

 

I too stopped beneath the horse chestnut tree

It had thrown its wares to the floor

Like a clown throws sweets at a children’s party

And I remembered then all the hours we spent:

Throwing branches in the air to reach the highest fruit

Hunting for the perfect weapon

So fat it looked like a medieval mace

Strong enough to kill a kid and cleave his head in two

(But pick too early and the stone would be soft

Too late and it would start to decay)

Then home to the mums to bake and pickle

And skewer

Vinegar drips and newly learned knots

The jousts in the netball court

Stampsy’s and “No Stampy’s”

(There was always a stampsy, no matter what)

 

I could picture a dozen kids

Watching in awe as David Hunt’s seventy-niner

(a brazen boast: no evidence provided)

Was obliterated in one almighty swing

Casualties were feared as pieces of shrapnel

Exploded into wide-eyed and gleeful faces

And the cry, the understated yelp,

“Well, that’s a Oner!”

Applying salt to the wounds

 

And part of me wished I’d scattered you here

Here beneath the chestnut tree

And I would have come back next year

And picked the fruit

And I’d have made sure I wasn’t too early

That the stone would be soft

And I’d have promised not to ever be so late again

It would have begun to decay

◄ Kissing the Alien (a boyhood dream)

Comments

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Elaine Booth

Tue 16th Aug 2011 22:58

Nash, was really moved by the truth of this poem. Comfort in memories and realisation of what must be in the last line.

Well worth taking time from work to write and share this. Thanks.

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Isobel

Mon 8th Aug 2011 10:23

I had it in my mind that Merps were larger marbles but I've checked it out and my elder sister says it was an old Wigan word for any type of marble. She spells it Mirps - but I'd go with my spelling LOL. We used to play with marbles a lot as I recall. A poor man's croquet/boules I guess!

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Nash

Mon 8th Aug 2011 08:16

Thanks isobel - very kind...but I have to ask...Merps?

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Isobel

Sun 7th Aug 2011 12:49

Conkers bring with them incredible nostalgia for our childhood. They just don't seem to be as widely appreciated now - along with marbles and merps.
This is a very moving poem. I was very touched by it - the gentleness of it all.

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Nash

Sat 6th Aug 2011 18:00

thanks Tom!

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Tom Harding

Sat 6th Aug 2011 17:50

this is another good poem. i agree with the others, i like the way it spreads out and then focuses in again. good stuff.

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Nash

Sat 6th Aug 2011 16:01

Thanks Ann x

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Ann Foxglove

Sat 6th Aug 2011 07:34

Hey, I too have a a piece of grit in my eye! What a tender lovely REAL poem. Beautiful!!! And I agree with Ray's comment that the poem spreads out like a tree.

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Nash

Fri 5th Aug 2011 14:26

Thank you for the kind comments, Val

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Nash

Fri 5th Aug 2011 14:25

Cheers Ray

A stampsy was when your conker was dropped, the string broke, the knot came loose or fell to the ground for any reason - someone would shout stampsies and a barrage of feet would try to destroy the said conker - heartbreaking if you had a winning formula but slippery fingers

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Val Cook

Fri 5th Aug 2011 14:22

A wonderful poem full of tender moments and memories. Loved it Nash. Thanks.

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Ray Miller

Fri 5th Aug 2011 12:56

Enjoyed the poem, been there and done that myself. The poem kind of spreads like a tree itself, I guess. Ripples.
The sky grabbing the clouds and the two following lines, are lovely.Clown throwing sweets also. The capitalisation of Father and Brother seems a bit random.
What is a stampsy?

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Nash

Fri 5th Aug 2011 11:53

Thanks Laura - I should be working but this fell out instead...

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Laura Taylor

Fri 5th Aug 2011 11:17

This is beautiful, but I now appear to have a bit of grit in my eye.

I love how you move from the funeral and the memories, through to the hugely evocative lines about conkers (used to do ALL of that heh)...seventy niner, stampsys :) Ace.

Love it.

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