Reclamation Neighbor Friend — Kim Whysall-Hammond

Still Life Garden 2 - Gerry Shepherd
Still Life Garden 2 – Gerry Shepherd


Solar fairy lights are draped over bean poles
scattered in bushes, hang from trees

Small children snuggle in huge sleeping bags
are tucked into tiny pop-up tents, cocooned in strollers
Mums and Mums, Mums and Dads, Dads and Dads
relax together

By the trees, Ska is playing on a bluetooth speaker
while a Steel Band sets up with the Rock Choir

Someone somewhere being is burning the Jerk Chicken
Nan Breads steam on tables
people sit on blankets swapping delicacies, favourite snacks
spices pervade the air

Morris dancing is being committed, I hear the tinkle of bells
my wife goes to find them, laughing

Several Turkish families munching kebabs are
encircling two wrestlers covered in olive oil
who slip and slide on the grass, struggling to grip
as a wider audience gathers

Solar streetlights proclaim party, the Mosque draped
them in thin scarves to colour our night

We are reconnecting, reclaiming the night and ourselves
while older kids are transfixed by all the moths
most of the local wildlife is probably putting
paws over furry ears, heads under wings and muttering
sod off

The Banghra dancers are warming up to
the booming dollop dollop of their large drums

The local likely lads, all ready to strut their stuff
to rhyme and patter at the microphone
are laughing hard at something.
I go over to see what's up
It's all a Rap they tell me
can't you see?

Raucous all-night picnic.

Love Thy Neighbour

"We close the divide because we know, to put our future first,
we must first put our differences aside"  Amanda Gorman
It’s hard, he doesn't like people my colour
but we have all been through hard times
we are now waiting for the future
wanting it to be good,
we all need care, attention.
I've been shopping for him since the virus first came
been trying to prize him from his flat
all that stuff piled high
can't be healthy.

Today the lifts work
since the community maintenance, they been good.
Today I got him to the park, reckon he needs fresh air.

And he came alive, started walking faster
went up to the trees, saying
robin blackbird,
well I misunderstood at first
racist begger I muttered.
Then, he turned, pointed up at some bird hovering
said Kestrel, and I realised
he knows this nature stuff.
Suddenly he was naming butterflies
hey, bloody butterflies have names
that are as beautiful as they are.
And I realised
when you name them, they are more real.

We spent a sunny afternoon wandering
me learning so much.
Then the kids came out of school
flooded through,
stopped, actually listened 
began repeating the names.

He goes to all the local schools now
tells everyone about birds, butterflies, moths, worms.
God, worms are important
really they are
we need them to grow food.

He calls me his Princess these days, old devil,
says I gave him a new life.
Well, that's what we all want.

The other friend I told you about

He can show me which doorway to sleep in
and where the bins have good eating.
I have that little place I know
where they do the best Takoyaki.
He tells me the names of all the constellations
and the stars within them,
I explain how solar panels can be made so thin
and he understands.
He’s seen stuff
well I have too, but he can’t see that

I’m afraid to touch him in case I catch something,
he’s afraid I’ll call the Police.

We often meet in the beer garden
sip lemonade
“Yeah, I got lemons, didn’t I?”
he says ruefully.
His eyes can glitter with assumptions
Our thoughts about each other
dance round and round and round.

I took him to the theatre
he knew the names of the lights
 in the rig above us, could quote the play.
He took me to gospel choir
got me to sing, I knew the words.

We talk about how we met,
by the canal, feeding ducks.
He told me off for giving them bread.
We found we had lots in common
all those things we are interested in.

He tells me a lot, perhaps everything,
whether I believe him is
I talk about family and
he walks away.
We miss each other after a while,
meet up again.

©2021 Kim Whysall-Hammond
All rights reserved

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2 thoughts on “Reclamation Neighbor Friend — Kim Whysall-Hammond

  1. Thank you for sharing these with us, Kim! I love the little moments that connect all the people in your three pieces. These little slices of life are precious, made real for us readers by your skill at setting the scene. 🙂


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