21 February 2006


            When I was four or five,
            Mondays were always so faraway.
            I stayed with my uncle.
            We took walks every day.
            To the playground, with its creaky
            old swings with rusty chains.
            Along the road where we lived,
            peering into other people's houses,
            wondering about their
            kids and dogs.
            To the scrap yard behind
            our own house,
            where hundreds of dead,
            useless cars piled up in long rows.
            With hardly a soul in sight.
            I could choose any car I liked.
            I could climb in and pretend
            I was driving fast. Vroom vroom.
            Grab the steering wheel and turn it
            this way and that. My uncle would stand
            outside the car and wait.
            Laughing at me until he grew bored.
            But I didn't care. Vroom vroom.
            Years later, six lanes of traffic would
            rush through where this scrap yard
            once was. And all these battered,
            broken cars would be gone.
            But at that time even my uncle,
            who knew a lot of things,
            couldn’t have known that.

            If it rained then we couldn’t go
            for walks. I’d sit in a room and read
            old National Geographics
            with my uncle. Well, not read.
            I couldn’t yet. But I’d flip through
            the pages and look at the photos
            of lions and spiders and
            dark people with no clothes.
            “Those are pygmies. They live
            in Africa and when they’re far apart
            they talk by using drums,”
            my uncle said.
            That was interesting. But I liked
            the animals better. There were
            other books. They had children's stories
            and nursery rhymes. I liked
            National Geographic best.

            Sometimes we’d go to the reservoir.
            It was only a few bus-stops away.
            We’d bring bread. We’d tear it up
            into pieces, and throw them
            into the water. Terrapins and fish
            came up from deep inside the
            dark green water to gulp the pieces down.
            Sometimes two fishes would fight
            for the same piece of bread.
            At the water’s edge there were tadpoles.
            Small, black, squiggly things.
            There was a wooden platform
            raised above the water so you could walk
            from the shore some way out to
            where the really big fish were.
            At least that's where my uncle said
            they were. I never actually saw any.
            He'd sit on a bench to rest
            and read the newspapers and
            sometimes even fall asleep
            while waiting for me.

            When we got back, my aunt would
            make me a snack. “Do you want milk
            or Milo today?” she’d ask. Humming a happy,
            absent-minded tune under her breath.
            She was always humming.
            I wanted black coffee like
            my uncle but I couldn’t
            until I grew up.
            But I could have a sandwich.
            With ham, eggs and tomato.
            Butter on both sides.
            Or marmalade. I liked marmalade.
            No one else in the house liked jam
            so my aunt's marmalade was
            all for me. After I finished,
            she would make me take a bath.
            With hot water and Dettol soap.
            And lots of baby powder
            after I dried off.
            "So that the germs won't come
            to visit you tonight, and you can
            sleep properly," she'd say.
            I didn't want the germs to
            ever come to visit me.

            On weekends, my real parents would
            come to take me home.
            I never wanted to go. I’d cry.
            Furiously. I’d cling to my aunt,
            or to a table, or the fence.
            Holding on fiercely,
            with all my strength.
            “Please, boy, let’s go,” my mother said.
            She sounded like she was
            going to cry too.
            My father looked on, angry and
            embarrassed. He would've liked
            to smack me hard.
            “Be a good boy,” my aunt coaxed,
            prising my fingers from
            the fence wires. “You’ll be back
            here on Monday. We can go to
            the reservoir again.”
            I cried more furiously.
            When I was four or five,
            Mondays were always
            so faraway.
posted by Gilbert at Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Blogger kite said...

Vivid. I love this one.

February 21, 2006  
Blogger dsnake1 said...

beautiful, evocative work.
fleshes out the childhood innocence so well. great images!

you must have loved Mondays!

February 21, 2006  
Blogger dreamer idiot said...

A really gentle, dreamy feel to this memory of those Mondays of so long ago...far, far away from the Mondays of today, in the office with loads and loads of work to do.

February 23, 2006  
Blogger jun said...


but a feeling of sadness...

February 24, 2006  
Blogger the cloned corpse of marcus tal said...



A finely crafted, evocative poem

Thank You

The Cloned Corpse of Marcus Tal

February 25, 2006  
Blogger Daniel said...

Superb! I really enjoyed this.

Kind Regards

February 25, 2006  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

I received this by email from one of my readers:

"I seriously think this is not a good poem. The subject matter is interesting and unique -- a boy who prefers to be with his guardians than his parents. However, it reads like a rant.

I've read it a few times, and I still can't figure out why it went into such lengths giving so many examples of how (and why) the kid enjoys spending time with aunt and uncle. It's sentimental but it feels hollow.

So yes the boy like National Geographic, talks about tadpoles and describes them, talks about wanting to drink coffee, didn't want to get germs on himself. But
what of it? I think it may have been overwritten and hurt the impact the ending was trying to make.

It's that the poem reads like a child actually wrote it, and that may not be a good thing in my humble opinion.

Apologies for the harshness, it's just what I think."

I'm happy to receive the comments and criticisms, no need to apologise ........

February 28, 2006  
Blogger PC said...

I've never been a literary kinda guy.. but this poem really works for me.

The imagery.. I literally can see the images in my mind. The "rantings"? Well, that only served to strengthen the images.

Well done Gilbert. It brought tears to my eyes; I grew up taken care by my Grandaunt, who was a "professional" nanny... brings back memories.

March 06, 2006  
Blogger Gilbert Koh said...

Wow, thanks, pc. :O)

March 07, 2006  
Blogger MB said...

I like the child's perspective and I think it works. Children seem to be pretty concrete in why they like things, so the examples worked for me. I am, however, left with the nagging question of why the weekends weren't also treasured.... were they just to short to have the same impact and build the same bonds? were the parents too busy? was there something else? It may not work to fit that into the same poem... but I am left wondering about it.

March 09, 2006  

Post a Comment

<< Home