Friday, 29 April 2011

Twenty-first century kids

I don't know much about twenty-first century kids, but I've occasionally, in poems, used the figure of supposing that this or that commonplace thing is one that C21 kids know not to exist.

Here are three such poems. All have had prior appearances in Streetwise, which from 1990 to 2007 was the magazine of St Matthew's church, Cambridge.

The first takes its inspiration from an article I saw in another parish magazine.


(a Yorkshire tale, with due acknowledgement to Maurice Ransome’s article in the
Pickering Beacon)
Seen from a ladder,
right next to the high window
in daylight, it’s fine:
a glove-stand in the window,
and a dressmaker’s dummy.

Seen from street-level
at night, matter for a dare:
walk past the high house,
past the window with the hand
and dim figure, not look up.

Seen for the first time,
the hand-window must have lit
mainly puzzlement;
needed rumours, darkness, dare,
to drive terror through the blood.

The high house came down yonks ago.
More modest dwellings fill the site.
The garden wall still stands.
The street I see is stone and light.
Twenty-first-century kids know
there’s no such thing as hands.

For the second -- well, there's been a royal wedding today. That led me to think of blogging this brief squib from 2001, and that led me to think of blogging all these three.


Women today don’t need to pay
for kings’ frustrations with their lives:
twenty-first-century kids know
there’s no such thing as wives.

Finally, here is a poem that had had adventures before its appearance in the church magazine. 'Types of advocacy' won a merit award in the 2004 Nottingham Poetry Competition, and a subsequent appearance in Poetry Nottingham (now Assent).


Type one plays inside-out with guilt:
I beat my face in and it's all your fault.
Type two finds footing on a raft:
I beat my face in as a human right.
Type three is pride, drum-banging through
a badge: I beat my face in, why don't you?
(sometimes with scripture in its praise:
I beat my face in to obtain the prize).
Type four’s political correctness,
the trick that only naming conjures:
twenty-first-century kids know
there's no such thing as faces now.

I’ll look for more, but it’s amazing
you’ve had that lot and still not started bruising.