A South London Childhood

Balconies and concrete stairs,
beery piss in broken lifts,
every night the same old prayers,
someone get us out of here.

Tightrope walking on the fence,
leap the gap between the sheds,
long walk to the traffic lights,
sideswiped by a motorbike.

Buttercups and dandelions
crowd long grass by rusty gates;
in the alley, shadows fall
where the friendly flasher waits.

Kim M. Russell, 2018

Carol and me at Baron Court024

My response to dVerse Poets Pub Meeting the Bar: Tanaga

Frank is our host this Thursday, bringing us the tanaga, a short form from the Philippines, which comes in stanzas of four lines with seven syllables per line. It often rhymes, but it can have variable end rhyme patterns. The tanaga is part of the oral tradition of the Tagalog language going back to the early 16th century. One example is the English poem, ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star’ written by Jane Taylor and published in Rhymes for the Nursery in 1806. Frank says that she probably wasn’t trying to write a tanaga, but the form of her poem matches the tanaga as well as a variation of common meter.

Frank would like us to write tanaga poems of one or more stanzas.

61 thoughts on “A South London Childhood

  1. What powerful images – the last line about the friendly flasher was a bit of a jolt, and to me that’s a really good piece of poetry, it leaves you lots to think about after you read it. Well done!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Phew! If that’s what it was like there, I don’t mind my childhood city at all! Descriptive and yet… polite. Don’t think I could’ve managed that myself… especially not with “Uncle Ernie.”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. One time there were three of us by the trees and we knew a man was hiding there. So we pretended our fathers were all policemen and that we had been learning martial arts. We ended up chasing him across the playing field! Dangerous, but as kids you just don’t realise.


    1. Thank you, Dwight. Our parents warned us about the alleys along the playing field but we were typical children and ignored them. I don’t think we realised quite how dangerous it could be.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Back then we weren’t really worried. We heard about it, especially after the Moors murders, but it seems so far away and we thought it only happened to other people. And then someone tried to pull me into a car on my way home from my nan’s house – the long way round to avoid the alley! I think it was being interviewed by the police that scared me the most.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Spring in the crowded urban city………imagery is strong here, Kim. It’s quite a shift from what we stereotypically think of when we hear the word “spring”….but it’s a reality.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think that’s true. Not long after we moved to Norfolk, we lost our jobs, had a thirteen year-old to cater for, and managed on less than £50 a week. We took pleasure in things like walking on the beach, playing Scrabble and listening to The Rock Show on a Sunday evening. No Internet, no holidays abroad, but we were happy.


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