• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 01
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St. Helena

The growing-up words at my grandmother’s feet
Half Tree Hollow, Francis Plain, The Briars, Prosperous Bay,
Dogwood, albacore, plo. Sounds of romance, adventure, wildness –
prickly pear whisky for ones they saved from the Papannui,
the Spangareid that to her and my wonder, burnt in the harbour for a week.
Her old photos of picnics, cousins, my mother’s long gone father,
the colour postcard with Mount Pleasant, her well-married sister’s
country house looking over the family flax destined for post office string,
then down fields and hills beyond the rocks rose Lot and Lots wife
volcanoes once, now a jag and a crag through the pure blue.
I grew up on this small island in stories, visions, memories
the vividness outdid south west London and our worn-thin lives,
in spite of Richmond Park in all its gentle space and English trees.
This excitement of remoteness and simple glories.
My mother the adventurer, took off at 3 years old on a wild climb,
dragging her small body up 300ish steps of Jacob’s Ladder.
The full 699 steps up to the barracks or paradise.
At Christmas the donkeys came into Jamestown with baskets full of Arum lilies.
She got an orange, an apple, and sometimes new shoes.
Auntie Beryl, an ‘island girl’ (weren’t they all island girls?)
made fashion dresses from the magazines shipped from Cape Town,
worn with a pride, alive with specialness, to government house dances
The war? Heard on some radios. But the British servicemen,
some were well-bagged husbands of island girls, had to go.
1947 she was a student nurse in Salisbury, becoming as English
as she always knew she was, adventuring and telling porky pies
about her education, her birth, laughing, skiving, having fun in Wiltshire pubs.


St. Helena

When she went back to the island in 1987, it wasn’t the same.
She put flowers on my great grandma Sophia’s grave,
for all her graft, for selling bags of rice in the market, her love, her laughter, her care
for the moonlit picnics on the rocks cooking up flying fish on night fires.