Harold Recollects His Childhood

When I looked at those sepia pictures
thinking oh how backward we were,
gauche and gaunt, wearing floral
pant suits with frog buttons,
and tacky footwear, I recapitulated on
my blessings being born post-war,
not having to eat tubers and scoop
a handful of snails for supper.

Yet Harold’s childhood was idyllic.
His dad flew kites, twenty to thirty
of them, over at Siang Lim Park.
A battle of kites! With foul play
in mind, his dad pounded a glass bottle
mixed with resin, attached to the string
to bring down other fighting kites.
He’d lose ten to fifteen sometimes.

Harold would go to the pond to catch
fighting fish, kept in separate jars or
put two together for a fight. He’d collected
cigarette boxes, badges and bottle caps.
When there’s a party, Aunty May would play
the accordion. His younger sis, Helen,
danced and mom too, while he sat in
the corner crying, not knowing why.

Prompt: It’s almost the penultimate day to the final day for submission. How’s your mood? Are you in the mood for writing? For submitting? For not submitting? I’ve just finished reading Emile Zola’s The Belly of Paris. It is set in and around Les Halles, the enormous, busy central market of 19th Century Paris. It contains pretty robust descriptions of a real-life market. For instance, pigeons being slaughtered by breaking necks and slitting throats. I’m old enough to remember how live chickens were slaughtered in the markets where I live. The theme of the story is in the final punchline: “What bastards respectable people are!” Respectability is a veneer, associated with prosperous living and the willingness to sacrifice truth, practice deceit, to preserve that at any cost. I also came across an article in which Pope Francis said that it’s better to be an atheist than a hypocritical Catholic. Hmmm. Write a poem about hypocrisy, either of a person or in general terms.


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