MIDWEEK POETRY: The Stairs.

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The Stairs. 

Grey scraggly clouds,

weeping tears of icy rain

hang over slated rooves.

Black sulphurous smoke

pours from dozens of chimneys,

fed by hot coal fires.

There are only cold ashes

and clinkers in ours.

***

Hand in hand we cross the common,

to the pensioner flats.

The long grass, wet, cold

drags at the bottom of my Macintosh.

Chill droplets disturbed from their resting place

slide down inside my wellington boots,

making me shiver as they find their way

into oft darned socks.

***

I don’t want to go.

I heard the raised voices,

We have no money,

he has to do it.

Whispered instructions as we walk,

It’s okay, it won’t hurt.

I want to ask,

What won’t hurt,.

***

The doorway to the stairwell

stares back at me.

Like a dark, cold eye.

I tell myself,

A monster lives here,

no one else would.

Tripe is cooking,

It makes me gag.

The stale aroma

of urine.

Mewling cats

rub against my legs.

She starts up the stairs,

I pull back.

There’s something up there.

The concrete stairs are cold,

hard, unfeeling.

They know the misery and hopelessness

of the elderly who climb them every day.

My misery is added to the history,

as one squelching step after another

I go upwards.

***

The drab green door with its

brass number hanging on it

mocks me.

She knocks.

A man’s voice,

old, tired invites us in.

Warm air embraces me,

wrapping me in cabbage smells.

The kitchen table is hidden under

old newspapers and dirty dishes.

A large red teapot sits amongst the clutter.

He sits on a bench and waves me over.

I back away,

she pushes me forward and follows.

Hands trembling he opens a leather purse

and shoves a few ten shilling notes in her hands.

Make sure yer Da gets them.

Backing away she turns and runs to the door,

I’ll be outside, you’ll be okay.

***

Yellowed teeth appear,

as his unshaven

wrinkled face breaks into a grin.

The tufted grey hair on his head,

what’s left of it, stands on end.

Spittle lurks in the corner of his mouth,

he wipes it away.

Take yer Mac off, it’s warm enough in here.

Trembling now I struggle out of it.

His hand,

crippled,

mottled,

taps at the bench next to him,

C’mon Lad, sit.

I sit.

The hand rests on my knee for a while,

before he runs it up and under

the leg of my shorts.

His breathing falters

and he leans towards me.

Eyes shining,

with something

I already understand.

Voice catching in his throat

he declares,

I’m going to like you.

***

She’s outside sitting on the stairs

shivering.

Waiting,

like she said she would.

Hand in hand we walk slowly down them,

and head home,

taking the long way around the block.

He gave me a new thruppence and some caramels.

I take a few from my coat pocket and

share them with her.

I’ll tell nobody about the coin.

We look at each other,

words aren’t necessary.

We know,

that our lives

will never be the same.

Laurie Smith© 2013

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32 thoughts on “MIDWEEK POETRY: The Stairs.

  1. Theresa

    Laurie – If you were with me right now, client and therapist, I would sit silently present, heart broken, with this little boy whose innocence was taken away by evil, but with admiration for the man who not only survived, but thrived. I would let the tears flow after our session ended, but right now, they flow freely as I type. I am sorry, Laurie, for these experiences, but I am grateful for the person you always were, and became, in spite of those who tried to disfigure your shining spirit. I send blessings to you, my friend.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thank you Theresa. I do apologise for causing your tears. I’ve cried myself dry over the years, which is good because it allows me to write about it with a certain amount of detachment. I console myself with the fact that those who did these things are long dead and I’m still here. Thanks for the blessings Theresa, they never go astray…

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  2. bgbowers

    Laurie, there are no words for this…Only heart-wrenching tears and strong emotions. The words & images are visceral enough to make me feel physically ill. Sorry is insufficient, but I am sorry , Laurie.
    Incredibly powerful piece that shall be etched into my mind & heart forever.
    Hugs, big hugs xoxo

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks for following me Bianca.
      It was a defining moment in my life at the time but I didn’t know it. I had become marketable and would therefore survive. People think that children go through terror every time these things happen, and for those who are introduced to it later in their childhood this is true. When your first memories stretch back to 18 months old and you aren’t able at that stage to differentiate between right and wrong, then whatever happens to you becomes the norm. (I can remember being ill with hepatitis at 18 months, my mother had a jigsaw on the table and I can remember it and many other things clearly to this day. The abuse had already started by then.) So in effect it’s no different to anything else you learn as you grow. My problem was with his rage, it was a truly horrifying sight to behold. So I hid under the dining table or behind my wardrobe in the bedroom where I found comfort in an alternate reality of make-believe. I’m sure there are a couple of personalities hiding inside. Thank you for your love and concern Bianca. Far worse things were yet to come and I’m still here and he isn’t.
      Laurie.

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      1. bgbowers

        Laurie, I have been following you for ages – a slip of my finger while fiddling with the menu via my phone…:)

        I’m amazed that you remember so far back, Laurie. Most people would repress such a trauma. As a mother, I cannot understand how anyone could allow this to happen to their child – I’m not passing judgement – I’m just incapable of understanding it as I am ferociously protective over my children.

        I know what you mean about ‘getting used’ to something, but it’s a crying shame that you had to endure that at all, never mind get used to it.

        I shudder to think how it got worse. My God, I feel a lot of emotion about this, Laurie.

        Love, Bianca xoxo

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      2. laurie27wsmith Post author

        I thought there was something odd about the following thing. I always slip up using the phone to write stuff. With memories, when it’s ‘everyday stuff’ then there aren’t any problems. When there’s a large element of brutality the mind takes over and puts it away. When brutalised people have families of their own there is always the chance of their children having the same things done to them. So normal doesn’t come into it at all. If I didn’t go through what I did then I wouldn’t have an experience to pass on and show ordinary people exactly what happens in the world. It is a complex and decidedly traumatic past here. When I outlined it to my shrink he stopped me mid sentence, picked up his phone and booked an appointment for himself with his shrink. Scary stuff indeed Bianca.
        Laurie. xoxo

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  3. Owls and Orchids

    Laurie, I feel at a loss for words – I’m humbled, heartbroken and murderously angry, all at the same time. I know this happens but this brings it so close to home. I have a very black and white attitude to child abuse – it’s not pretty for the abuser!
    My heart truly bleeds after reading this, knowing where you are coming from, to have your strength of character is amazing, humbling. I am so very sorry… sorry I couldn’t be there to stop it. Such a silly thing to say and feel but there it is.
    Hugs and much love my sweet friend.
    Susan xxx

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thank you Susan, it brings anger and murderous rage out in a lot of folk. There are a lot of people who won’t comment, and that’s okay. No it’s not a silly thing, it’s the mother coming out in you.
      Hugs received. 🙂
      Laurie.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      It shows another side to abuse Joy, one that a lot of people don’t believe happens. In a strange way I feel vindicated when people get angry over these things, and that my writing moves them in many ways. Not out of some perverse need to upset people but that my message gets out to the world. The cry of a small boy.

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      Thanks Amelia. Believe it or not, people who have been subjected to worse things over a long period of time will tell you, that acceptance takes over. They tend to look at the events taking place as ‘normal’ not realising that it goes against all that is right. Especially for children, there is the parent/child dynamic in play so their lives are restricted even more. Lack of friends, no sleepovers, being shunned by friends and relatives who know. They become precocious, act out, get into trouble. I don’t think its about being brave, it’s finally saying to the world, ‘This is me.’ Thanks so much for reading and responding.

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  4. rayjamieson

    Laurie, I’m almost speechless. I am blessed to have never had any personal experience of this kind of trauma and my heart goes out to those who have. The perpetrators bewilder me, I cannot understand why, I probably never will. Powerful writing, powerfully vivid and too real!

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      I’m sorry for making you cry Raani. It’s just how it was, and like any injury all that is left are old scars. There’s 55 years between that event and now, so all that’s left is the shadow.

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  5. oldmainer

    Boy Laurie, this is heartbreaking. One of life’s dirty secrets laid bare. Is it possible to like the text and detest it simultaneously?

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    1. laurie27wsmith Post author

      This process is like peeling an onion for me, tear away a skin and reveal what’s underneath, then write about it in a way that isn’t going to make people vomit. Yet at the same time convey the hopelessness of the situation. It is a hate/like post.

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