The scarf

He now discovers a reason to laugh:
trusted with his dirty, drunken laundry,
little girl washes the Irishman’s scarf.
“Just as I am, no, she doesn’t judge me”,
he thinks to himself, as she goes to play
imitating adults’ jobs that she sees.
So she cleans the scarf of its grime like clay,
happy to have helped her neighbour next door,
smiles its return at the end of the day.
Then comes the day he is called up for war:
throughout the battle he never forgot,
sent chocolate rations, no matter how poor.
One day his luck left: he fell from a shot;
although she grew up, she never forgot.

Submitted to dverse poets open link night. Listen on soundcloud


35 thoughts on “The scarf

  1. wow…how many went away and never came home…and for it to be a neighbor she cared for i think it would make quite a lasting impression on a child…the imitation of adulthood as well…smiles…it is familiar with my boys as well…

    • makes me want to know what inspired you to write this. Loved hearing you read it. such a compact story with such strength.

      • The little girl was my mother during the Second World War. Her neighbours ran a lodging house, and she wanted to join in the laundry chores, but they wouldn’t trust her with the lodgers clothes. After pestering them, they proposed that if she asked the Irishman (who generally didn’t wash himself or his clothes, and didn’t seem to have family nor friends, but drank alone) and he agreed, she could wash his scarf, and hence the connection was formed. For a long time after being called up he sent packages to her with his war rations in, but by the time the war post got through the chocolate was often mouldy, but she appreciated the package anyway. Then, without a word, the packages just stopped coming and the worst was assumed. My mother died when I was a child, but I remember her story, and in remembering her, in a small way I remember this unnamed casualty of war.

    • My imagination see it in black and white, and somewhat grainy. Hence, I chose a short form rather than a long form, as I didn’t want to fill in those grainy details too much.

  2. You put an ache in my heart…for all the orphaned and killed children in all wars, but especially those we had not business getting involved in. Well penned.

  3. there is such power in realizing we’re not judged and someone just takes us as we are.. i can imagine that it sparked a strong bond and that he never forgot her

    • I had considered writing a longer piece, with more detailed descriptions (e.g., the scarf’s colour and material etc.), but it’s really a memory from my mother, and I didn’t want to invent too much, and taint/corrupt how I remember her telling me the story, so I went with a shorter form (if that makes any sense?).

  4. Sad but beautiful write – portraying innocent kindness and (often unspoken) gratitude of the lonely and unloved. Thank you.

    Anna :o]

  5. This is a really touching narrative you’ve shared in your poem. I see from the discussion that it is your mother’s story – which makes your sharing it with us all the more precious.

    Punctuation police warning – you have ‘it’s’ twice and both times the apostrophe is unnecessary. Grace did use punctuation as her intro for OLN 🙂

    • Thanks Tony – I’ve now caught and extinguished the rogue apostrophes. Unfortunately, the Ipad has its own ideas about apostrophes, and unless I’m hawk eyes, it will auto change ‘its’ for ‘it’s’. I’ve been catching them in some of my older poems too, but I’ll try to be more vigilant..

      • Ha Ha! My partner’s an English teacher/lecturer, so I’m used to corrections, as well as from journal reviewers (but nevertheless be prepared for “your/you’re” mistakes – I know my tendency for errors, but I don’t always catch myself).

  6. My first visit to your blog, Rowan – ‘ripples in each other’s lives indeed…’ I particularly enjoyed the fracrtured poignancy you have summoned up here in this skilful and heart felt piece. With Best Wishes Scott

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