Simply Haiku: A Quarterly Journal of Japanese Short Form Poetry
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Winter 2007, vol 5 no 4


M. Sharif


Autumn meant going back to school and a reloading of the academic armoury. Binders, pens, pencil sharpeners, school uniforms and shoes. I hated the shoes part most. It was assiduously left until the day before school started, meaning a frantic hunt around depleted shops. Dragged from store to store, I would endlessly protest that the shoes I was trying on were perfect. My mother would have none of it. I had to try every single pair "to make sure". We pretty much always ended up going back for the very first pair I tried on.

Traipsing through the school gates in those hard, unloved shoes, only the sight of friends' faces was any consolation to the impending shock of the blackboard. We met up at breaktime and immediately started complaining about work and our new teachers. We lived for breaktime, and knew we only had to wait a month or so before things really kicked off. October, you see, meant daily checks on horse-chestnut trees.

The rest of the year, these trees held no interest for us, being notable only for their leaves, which looked like the fingers of some giant green alien. In Autumn though, spiky little planets would appear on their branches. When the time was right these would fall to the floor. Inside each was a conker, a polished little wooden jewel. We'd collect as many as we could and take them home to be prepared for combat.

Those who cared enough would go through many methods to harden their conkers. I could never be bothered. I cut straight to pushing a screwdriver through the middle of the conker before slipping a shoelace through and tying a knot at the bottom. Back at school the next day, we'd swing our conkers against each other to see which was the best. Every once in a while these would turn into real fights.

Sometimes I'd even take a screwdriver to school and prepare my conkers there, using the shoelaces I happened to be wearing. I could never be bothered putting them back, and I'd wander round for the rest of the day loosely shod. This drove my mother mad but was, I felt, ample retribution.

Once you get past a certain age though (eleven? twelve?) you become too grown up for conkers.

tightly laced --
I walk past the conkers
blowing bubblegum


M. Sharif lives in the UK.