On The Soft Landscape Of Childhood

young children always regard deprivation
as being caused by their own inadequacies


Forced momentarily
to peer deeply, deeply inwards
into misty bromide images,
the mind’s eye hesitates
as it struggles to track through
fifty years of stored strife,
for it also becomes painfully aware
of its own humble beginnings.
A small boy is crouching in solitary play
on knees scuffed by awkwardness,
eagerly chuckling to himself,
engrossed in fantasies,
with forced, irregular breaths,
cursing Kaiser and Hun,
he sucks in inaudible words.
On the soft landscape of childhood,
the long, red patterned hall carpet,
Monty’s “Desert Rats!”
Glorious and victorious,
are in action to save the day again.
Large glass Challenger tanks
are launched to clink and scatter
Rommel’s advancing array
of broken toys.
The cogged German cotton reels
jerked forwards by twanging elastic
midst mutterings of explosions,
screams, and ricochets,
and aimed with impartial deceit,
founder into upturned wrecks
on tufted curled edges of the desert.
Risking court martial,
and execution by firing squad,
his older brother’s Meccano size 5
has been appropriated for the war effort.
Green metal plates, yellow flanges,
brass pinions, pullies, and wheels
are rapidly plucked out
as, drawing in excited breaths
to repeatedly halt a running nose,
his fumbling fingers rush
to bolt together
invincible contraptions of war.
He knew he could last three shouts
from when Mother first called
“Come and eat your tea!”
Tired, the war is rapidly won.
All the British survive,
and he retires honourably
from the untidy battlefield.
He had fought bravely,
tried to be a boy to be proud of.
But, his father,
never came home from the war.

© Gothicman 2018
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critique and comments welcome.

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10 Comments on "On The Soft Landscape Of Childhood"

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Now that’s special, things I understand… and remember. The cotton real tanks with the candle side bit, and elastic bands. Brilliantly portrayed Trevor. The ending had the thump I’m sure you intended.
Great stuff old friend.

Wonderful piece Goth. And so skilfully wrought. Your title is just beautiful too. There’s something so nostalgic and tender about it. From title to reading the whole, down the page, it is as if I’m looking backwards in time, watching a movie-like reflection in a mirror/through a mist. Viewing this boy in sepia or black and white. This is what your poem evokes in me. Your ending is superb. I selfishly wanted the punctuation to be a bit different here, though. 🙁 tried to be a boy to be proud of. But his father, never came home from the war.… Read more »

Really enjoyed reading this, in a way it reminded me of myself as a child, the solitary play and strong imagination encompassing another world. I loved your line ‘ on knees scuffed by awkwardness’ especially. A superb poem. Sue.


A wonderful poem, sensitively written and real. It’s a beautiful and thoughtful journey back in time, memory and past making potent poetry and the last verse, that opened with a smile from me, ended with a tug at the heart strings. Glad to see it has been nominated…Leila



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