When We Were Young

by Ivan Donn Carswell

As a child I played in the same frosty fields
barefoot as my no lesser loved classmates,
whom we challenged to show courage in the numbing cold,
then together we held our chilled fingers over the roaring stove
that warmed our prefabricated, asbestos-sided classroom.

There were differences then and we knew them,
but shoes, or their lack,
shared clothes, running noses and weeping sores
did not seem significant to us
as we hastened through adolescence.

In those awkward years we were accustomed
to the unruly spirit of our being,
and our commonalty had more meaning than our separate futures.
I cannot recall a formal battle between the ‘them and us’
which was won by either side,
victories demanded greater skill
than tribal pride and family honour,
and warriors had no first claim to their origins.
The teams which warred were short-lived
and names were shared as battle-lines were drawn,
disputed, skirmished-over, until the bell
called us to our classroom.

In winter there was the lunchtime hot pot
to which we carried a family contribution,
and glutinous, multi-coloured, meat-and-vegetabled
soup slopped and steamed in our enamel mugs
as we bickered over the disintegrating mutton shanks,
eating our thick buttered bread, licking our fingers
satisfied guts glowing with a 1950's sense of well-being.

The playtime games and school chores punctuated
untroubled days of rote-learned arithmetic,
and lists of spelling words like 'fatigue',
muddled with stories read and agreeably listened to
granting glimpses of wide-eyed worlds beyond
the thin, obtuse walls of our shrouded origins.

I never knew other than great wonderment
at the vastness of the outside world, and my classmates
amazed me with their sophism
although I did not recognise it then.

But the naiveté of my beginnings
has me shackled in this era of mass beliefs
and machine-made consumerism,
my humble origin is shaken out as a time worn excuse,
trampled upon as a well used hearth rug. It matters not
that my heart has never left the simple rooms
where my world vision was fashioned
in the company of my playmates, my peers,
and I am deserted by their desperate awareness
and avid quest of themselves.
© I.D. Carswell

Last updated May 02, 2015