when I was three feet high
I selected my beliefs to suit the life I desired;
projecting a fantasy of everlasting childhood,
thinking nothing bad could ever happen to me;
or if it did my parents would make it better.
My self-effacing mother would soothe me in her gentle way,
or my clever father would make the problem go away.
I dreamed of joining a circus, of living in a palace,
of being famous for jumping higher than anyone in the world
and writing the best book in the known universe,
but the future was so distant that it didn’t exist,
and I continued to dream that it would be my happy fate
to turn perfect cartwheels and ride
on top of a trailer of sun-warmed hay
in an unchanging emerald world throught eternity.
I lived in a part of rural England where
if a tree was felled, another would take its place,
where autumn may take the leaves away,
but spring would always return them:
where children never died; or at least,
none of the children I met.
The demise of a curled foetus was a distant thing
with the positive attribution of making a fat woman thin;
Hunger only happened to the young in poor countries,
and when we went to school we filled their stomachs
by donating our pennies and being rewarded
by little photographs of their pretty faces,
which we took home to display, proud
in our sweet belief that had changed a life.
None of the suffering children were plain,
which was a good thing because if they had been
we may not have wanted their picture,
leaving them to their hollow fate.
When my silhouette curved into premature maturity
I was ten years old and five feet tall.
My father killed my innocence with his impropriety,
and although his behaviour was reprehensible;
precursing my slippery fall,
someone had to break my childish naivity.
©Jane Paterson Basil