Memories by Hannah Rees

21st April 2000 at 01:00
Hannah Rees, 17, St Thomas Aquinas school, Birmingham.

Memories. The door is on a latch, as it always was.

We could enter whenever we wished, Like a second home to us.

The house has always had this distinct smell, Warm, cosy and homely.

But nothing seems the same It's not like I've returned And we are eight again.

We were all together here, But now I feel an intruder And there is no "we" anymore.

Where are the friendly shouts?

Or the dog's yappy bark?

The wheel chair's here, but she is not.

I know this house back to front, There's not a cupboard I've not been in, Or a room I have not slept in.

But the atmosphere is gone.

And it is just a house, Remote, distant and unfeeling.

Peter Sansom, TESFriday's guest poetry critic, writes: Though sad, this is a satisfying poem, like a good short story. It's about visiting a grandmother's house (judging by the wheelchair); a house always busy with people when the poet was a child. It's accurate too, the way we know a place by its smell. "arm, cosy and homely" is how it was; at the close those three adjectives are replaced by what a house is without people, without family. And we realise that the poem is an elegy, but not just for a person but for childhood. Once she could visit this place just by wishing. Now, going back is not the same because she goes back alone: entering that place is to find, as that marvellously moving line says, that "there is no 'we' anymore".

Hannah Rees receives Emergency Kit, edited by Jo Shapcott and Matthew Sweeney (Faber). Her poem was submitted by Catherine Foley. Peter Sansom has published the handbook, Writing Poems, with Bloodaxe. His third Carcanet collection, partly about his Poetry Society Marks and Spencer residency, is published this year. Please send poems, not more than 20 lines, to Young Poet, TES Friday, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX The TES Book of Young Poets (pound;9.99), a selection of poems from this column, can be ordered by phoning 01454 617370. A set of posters is available for pound;3.99.

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