I have always been hungry, hungry for life, for the beauty of creation, for the strange white creatures that float, forever shape shifting, in the sky, for all of the magic things that surrounded me. They told me the world was a chemistry set, but I always knew the truth; knew it was magic.
I ate up all of the magic, the art, the literature, the trees, the wildflowers, the oxygen, the gifts of strength, balance and acrobatics, of writing, drawing and creating, swallowing magic of life in great gulps, and I thought these things were mine forever.
I was hungry for success, for fame. When, at the age of nine, I defeated Graham,the twelve year-old school bully, I gained notoriety, and that seemed like a good beginning. Being allowed on the school climbing frame when conditions were not deemed safe enough for any of the other kids made me a minor legend. My death-defying balancing tricks on the very edge of a viaduct at the tender age of thirteen increased my kudos, fascinating boys, but causing sneery, nudgy comments to drift my way from the girls’ corner. They disliked and feared strange animals such as me, and they hated the male attention I attracted.
I was considered to be an extraordinarily talented writer for my age, which was encouraging. I expected to be a famous writer one day, listed among the all-time greats – the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Somerset Maugham, et al.
I was hungry for love, or anything with a similar feel. My desire to be accepted resulted in a self-destructive politeness. Yes, I was hungry, and way off in the distance, at the end of a poker-straight path that ran uphill, I could see a banquet that could keep me fed for life. The courses were laid out for me; career success, followed by the right kind of love – the love of somebody worthwhile – security, and all kinds of interesting desserts. But there were many distractions along the way, and soon I was off the path, eating greasy chips and mass-produced sandwiches, because it seemed rude to refuse them, when it could be seen that I was hungry.
I strayed further and further down precipitous, rocky lanes, tripping, falling, righting myself, taking care not to limp in case someone may see my loss of dignity.
Most of my life has passed me by now, but here I am, trudging a lesser path, but one which is straight and narrow, though not so steep.
I have come to terms with the fact I will never again perform death-defying feats on the edge of the viaduct. In my youth it was a disused railway line, far from anywhere, but these days a main road runs along it, and if I were to attempt the acrobatics of my youth, cars would screech to a halt in a misguided effort to dissuade me from suicide.
I have come to terms with the fact that a happy marriage is not for me, and I no longer have any desire to share my life with a man. I am far happier living alone.
I still have the beauty, the art, the literature, the music, the oxygen, the wildflowers, the trees, although I rarely climb them now.
These days I only hunger for success. I hunger for my words to be recognised and respected in the wide world, because if they are not, I will never be sure whether I have earned the title of poet.
And more than anything, I hunger to know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that I am a poet.
Written for The Sandbox Challenge #33 “What do you hunger for?”
©Jane Paterson Basil