Poems from Helen (12) in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

*These poems are Editor's Award winners for March 2003*

Poems and stories

My Life

By Helen, 15, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

I am walking up a spiralled staircase.
It is long and far, and at times I get tired,
And wonder if I will reach the end.
I started right at the base;
And gradually progressed,
Making my way forward.
At times, I look down.
I can see, I am on a parallel with where I was before.
But always, I look up again,
And continue my progress, moving on.
Sometimes I am tempted to stop,
Or retreat downwards,
And at times I seem to be dragged backwards
By the gravities that are thrown at me.
But afterwards, I can always tell that it is really my reaction to those gravities.
Always, I recover.
As I get higher, it becomes easier.
I seem to be leaving these things behind.
And as I look down to my former life,
I cannot see myself.
I can only see a few coils down,
A few parallels.
And always the staircase winds upwards.
It is like a coiled spring,
Tight with energy to throw me up and release me,
When I am ready.
But, looking down, I am still on a parallel.
Many doors lead off, to the left and right.
Why do I not leave this journey?
There are so many opportunities.
But I do not know what awaits me,
What will happen at the top.
And always my feet carry me on,
Driven by an unseen will. (March 2003)

At an Orchestra Rehearsal

By Helen, 15, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

Sheets spread out on stands across the stage.
People craning forward, squinting to read the dots and markings that cover the page,
Interpreted instantly in their minds.
Minds working like clocks, counting the bars before they come in,
Ticking the beat in their heads, subdividing.
Expert mathematicians.
Instruments are up, playing their individual notes.
The individual threads of music are thin and weedy, random,
Make no sense.
The piece of music is thrilling, fulfilling,
The sound of the orchestra working together is sublime.
Beautiful music.
It is a single voice, many-textured, an intense variant.
I remove my voice from that many-threaded picture,
Horn IV makes no difference.
Now the voice is empty.
That lack of a single note removes the meaning,
Cuts the strings.
Nobody, then, makes any difference.
The twanging of the meaningless silence hurts.
We cannot help, if nothing makes a difference.
All us nobodies, we join together,
As one, raise our hands to help.
And the beautiful music restarts.
Full of meaning, filling the emptiness.
For me, a gentle reminder.

I travel back through meaningless years,
To the early reasoning of my existence.
They chafe me, angry at my complacency.
‘You haven’t shed a single tear!’
How can they not understand,
That to lose a friend so young,
You simply do not care?
How can I cry when there is nothing in me,
When I do not bear any remorse?
Dry eyes are better than crocodile tears:
Any contribution should come from the heart.
I see my sister, hugging Mummy,
Aesthetic tears squeezing out of her big brown eyes,
Clearly feeling superior and grown up:
To cry at a loss that means nothing,
To cry with all the adults.
How can you take that freedom from a child?
Sadly I remember her glaring at me,
Shouting at me for my heartlessness.
There is a lesson that some people should learn:
Sometimes it is the children who are mature,
Not always the adults, with their cleverness and heads held high,
Who act with all the maturity they think they have.
Now she gets on with her daily life,
Happy to call her little sister shallow and immature,
Not knowing, not caring to know.
She cares not for the future, she looks not to the past.
She lives only for the moment, past events forgotten.
But me, I look to the future and dwell on the past.
The moment holds nothing for me.
And so, I listen to the music I help to play, filling a hole in its tones,
And the tears I shed now fill a hole dug then. (March 2003)

Ethics at the Table

By Helen, 15, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Tyne and Wear, England

Potatoes and sprats –
A good honest meal.
Fish lie piled in bowls, their silver flanks winking.
Spines ripped out of little corpses, heads torn off.
Oily fingers are licked as broken flesh heaps up,
Bones protruding.
In a deep bowl are the rejected parts –
Here a tail, there an eyeball that has popped
Out of its socket.
And throughout reside the spiking scars that are backbones.
These fish were harvested en masse,
Whole shoals snatched from their displays,
Hanging suspended in a woven tear-drop
Until they tumble to the bottom as the sea
Drains from them.
They were thrown to the floor of a ship in their thousands,
Once more flashing acrobats as they gasp to retrieve oxygen –
Destined to a slow, remorseless suffocation,
Crammed together as slaves, with familiars and strangers
Collapsing around them, as their struggle ends.
The slender kaleidoscopes flash up on a screen –
The consequences of these actions make headlines.
The fish disappear –
Replaced by a picture of potatoes.
Irish potatoes – also threatened.
The potatoes ladled onto my plate
Were produced en masse –
Thrown into ships in their thousands,
The rolling entities ferried to Irish shores.
The cheaper prices crush all competition,
And livelihoods are lost, where they mean so much,
As with the fish that lie untouched on my plate.
Perhaps it is my youth which makes me oversensitive.
But the sceptic in me knows it is my taste buds. (March 2003)

poems and stories

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Last revised: 09-Jul-2011