Daffodils

my entry for "The Second Poetry Competition".

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1. Daffodils

 

In my favourite photograph,

I’m five years old, but the confident kind,

That is almost six.

My sister was newly four,

And filled with uncertainty,

Because really she was still three.

 

We’re dressed as Welsh ladies,

In front of a proud patch of daffodils,

Satisfied because we were good parents

And raised them well.

So their stalks grew stiff and tall.

 

I was the Daddy because I tried to protect her,

And that’s what my Daddy did.

She was the Mummy because she was cuddly, warm and soft,

And that’s how my Mummy was.

 

But now I skive off Welsh lessons,

And go home, an hour early, to sit at the window, alone.

Adults say “Respect your roots.”

And they shouldn’t mean it, (but they do) because they didn’t respect theirs.

I say “Roots only hold you back.”

Because they do, and I mean it.

 

Two summers ago,

We buried my sister’s pet cat, under the daffodil patch.

Except it’s not the daffodil patch anymore

Because I pulled up the daffodils,

To make way for the plaque.

And at the funeral, only I stood dry-eyed.

 

 No-one will ever take more pictures,

Because only weeds grow now.

 

Now I’m nobody’s parent,

Nor do I wish to be.

 

But I still try to protect my sister,

Because I’m a big sister, and that’s what we do.

But I fail (too often) now, because she isn’t as cynical as me.

And soon she’ll be thirteen.

And that’s round about the age when boys recover from that mysterious ailment

That we all called “cooties”.

 

 Dad still tries to protect me,

With warnings about older boys.

He wouldn’t talk if he knew

That I’m not looking for love

Because love is blind,

So I taught myself to look where I walk

And I know that only you can fix yourself when you fall.

 

I guess Mum is still cuddly and soft.

But I don’t know, because I don’t really hug her, anymore.

Now she just sees fat rolls where her curves used to be

And she says to me “never end up the same.”

And I say I won’t, but I don’t refer to her weight,

I mean to never see myself that way.

 

I used to fall asleep, with my head on Dad’s chest.

I lied, said I was afraid of the dark.

But really I was just afraid of the day I’d grow too old and he’d stop coming to my room,

To tuck me in, to kiss my flushed cheek.

And to tell me his best story,

The one about the beagle puppy and the loo-roll

And the mess they made around the house.

 

But I secretly preferred writer’s stories,

Because although they weren’t real, the characters were

 They kept me company, and they let me think.

 

Dad would still come to my room,

But aged ten, I sent him away

By way of a sign, blue-tacked to my door,

That screamed “GO AWAY”

So as a teenager, I never had to.

 

I tuck myself into bed,

With my books, about twelve of them, partly read

And I smile because the words of dead men are all I need.

 

When I wanted attention, I’d crawl into a cardboard box,

And furnish it with the checked blanket

That comes out on winter nights and sometimes keeps me warm.

 

And I’d cry, and say it was because no-one loved me

Because I wanted proof.

 I learnt,

To never believe in something, unless I had the evidence.

So I became a unicorn-hunter, and every night, at twilight

I’d stand at my back door and hope that one would come out,

Like a rising star over the mountains,

As I whispered the unicorn song.

 

Mum would hug me in her arms,

And every-time I was upset, I’d cry into her chest.

 

Now I don’t want love or affection,

Fame, stardom or praise.

I want to be left alone.

 

So now crying is done up in the trees,

Where none can hear precocious pain’s screams.

 

If you assume I mean “precocious” as in gifted,

You are wrong.

I mean to say; “premature”, like a daffodil bud

That unfurled her yellow fronds too soon

And was marred by winter’s frost.

 

I don’t cry much though.

Less than many a teenager I know.

I tend to just wander, hoping to get lost among trees I could

Navigate, in the dark,

Without a map.

 

I like to make up for lost time,

And I may not believe in love or fate or destiny,

But I still chase castles in the evening sky.

 

So when the light is all lost and gone,

And winter is so long,

I know I won’t grow daffodils anymore

But if, on my night-time wanderings amongst the trees,

I find some lonely soul has left some daffodil bulbs,

Come spring-time,

I’ll wear them,

Tied, in my hair.

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