by Ian C Smith

‘At a still point in the turning world…there the dance is’

(T.S Eliot,  Burnt Norton)

A small boy using his brain during a likelihood of it undergoing damage, bolts upstairs to a window he flings open crying, Don’t hit me, Dad. Voice shrill, he continues: Murder. Help.  You’ll kill me, Dad, before his shaken father, anger flummoxed into irritation, slams the window shut, hisses, The neighbours’ll hear you. What’ll they think? which the boy thinks is obvious.

Impulsive short-term effect became long-term as this father ceased hitting his son, who continued to ridicule his father by dumb show. The father forever berated his boy instead of inflicting the bullying hidings the boy had traded. The mother, quick-tempered, urged by the father, took on sole management of their corporal punishment regime over which she, also subject to, and enraged by, her mate’s wheedling ways, lacked control, even hurling the boy, his light weight in a whirl, across rooms, once breaking a chair over his back.

That boy grew up ready to pump his fists anytime, anywhere, at anyone threatening him; physical threats, verbal threats, implied threats. Undisturbed within the realm of his imagination, often reading, he was content, but his landmine-like reactions lay dormant.  Push in meanly and be surprised out of all proportion. Average-sized, he sprang suddenly, suffered few defeats, believing these losses natural life hazards, the price of being left alone. When he is aged, calmer, widely read, educated late—an ongoing banquet—his younger brother, passive when a lad, remembering the hair-trigger atmosphere, wishing his older brother would stay out of trouble, trouble billowing like a nuclear cloud that would contaminate much of the older boy’s life, asks what changed him. This younger brother, ageing himself, lacking education, sermonises about wrongdoers deserving punishment, causing his former fighting brother to consider the word mellowed, a cliché he likes.  Recently finding a coin in his garden from the year he flung open the window to their sedate street, that year now stretched into all the years of what was then his frenetic future, his turning world, he struggles to explain, throat constricted, mindful now of cause and effect, responsibility.   

Ian C Smith’s work has appeared in, Amsterdam Quarterly, Antipodes, cordite, Poetry New Zealand, Poetry Salzburg Review, Southerly, & Two-Thirds North. His seventh book is wonder sadness madness joy, Ginninderra (Port Adelaide). He writes in the Gippsland Lakes area of Victoria, and on Flinders Island, Tasmania.