Pernicious Life

Manolita Foster 2020


Who dropped wonder into the child’s crib?

Which fairy godmother bestowed that christening gift?

The one who wore a cloak of refracted light, its rainbow ends brushing wisps of hair from her tiny head.

Innocent eyes blink and tubby fingers wiggle up to play with the invisible.


And darkly, Life settled about her and drew the curtain tight.


Who brought song into her voice? Which breeze carried the nightingale’s call,

From African plains into the musty schoolroom?

Cherished notes to serenade the enchanted child?

With those melodies of love and harmonious wanderlust, the charmed schoolgirl swayed.

Life, raging with jealousy, screamed at yesterday’s song and slammed the window shut.


Who tempted the young woman with cardamom lips?

Was it the silken-gowned god, perfumed with intrigue?

Through coffee-stained pages, he drifted into her student dorm

Whispering a thousand and one tales to while away the night.

Mystery and passion awakening within her desire to seek the unknown.


Life’s tentacles of fear wound around her, clasping the account for the dreams she believed were hers.

Dreams that had been free and without prejudice.

Enriching gifts once so lovingly bestowed upon that youthful woman,

All to soon snatched away by an envious master.


Life was not interested in her wonder, in her music nor her passion.

Life wanted the debt of her existence to be repaid; with interest.


She toiled and saved. She was a good wife. She was a good mother.

She cradled the baby and played with his tubby fingers.

She sang like a nightingale and watched his face glow with feverish excitement at night-time stories of love in far off lands.

She watched him blossom and did not dwell on the cost.

He was worth the price Life demanded of her.

Anyway, he would be different, he would ride the rainbow coat-tails worn by Adventure.


‘Once upon a time…’ said the good fairy, ‘there was an enchanted child.’

Life cursed her good fortune.

Good humoured, she shrugged and said, ‘My child will live his dreams.’


Greedy Life smirked at her request. ‘What was good for you, is good for him.’

And into his reluctant hands, Life thrust the invoice.

She cried as his eyes dulled, his world becoming ever smaller.

Chains of burden and responsibility clattered against high walls, tying him back to a debt accumulated.


Once upon a time, the sun rose, and mother and child basked in its shining opportunity.

Life demanded the sun must set, plunging mother and son into the bleakness of regret.


Who were they to believe in freedom?

Who were they to treasure the sunrise?

Life blurs dreams with bitter tears.

And with pernicious stealth, Life steals.

Artwork: John Duncan: Heptu Bidding Farewell to the City of Obb 1909

© 2019 The Beat Goes On