KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 6: Fall 2016
Ekphrastic Tanka Tale: 952 words

State of the Art

by Claire Everett

Street artist [Banksy] leaves a burning tire as present for school children


the gift
of a new baby...
pity she didn’t
arrive ready-wrapped
in cotton wool

“It never did me any harm.”

Whatever it was. A good hiding, perhaps. Or being the last of five to take your turn in the tin bath in the yard every Sunday afternoon while the corners of the carbolic soap did their worst making sure there were no potatoes taking root behind the ears. One thing is sure: it has been watered down over the years like that recipe for moonshine. (Granddad and his favourite tipple were made of sterner stuff).

“What did you have to do to get a lashing, Mum?”

“Oh, something pretty bad, like going skating on the ice when our Dad had forbidden us to. Me and my brother got the belt for that, buckle end as well. We’d already been punished by falling through the surface, up to our necks in the bitter cold pond. But that isn’t how Dad saw it.”

“That’s terrible!”

“But I’m here to tell the tale, aren’t I? When I got too old for turning over his knee, the threat of the workhouse hung over my head. ‘Don’t you be bringing any trouble home, girl,’ he’d say and I had no clue what he meant. When I snuck off to the cinema that day when I should have been at the factory, and that chap sat next to me and fondled my thigh, I didn’t really know what he was doing but I was sure no good would come of it. And there was no way I could tell Dad about it—”

“Why didn’t you tell a policeman?”

“Mr Touchy-Feely was the policeman.”

It’s all good clean fun. That was pretty much the motto when we were growing up. Fun, it was, but often there was nothing clean about it. It seemed my mother waged a one-woman war against paint and ink, grass stains, mud, blood, sweat, and tears. And today, there I was reading over my daughter’s shoulder; an article on her iPad about how scientists have discovered there are microbes in soil that are natural mood-enhancers.

is the way to happiness

a belly laugh
from the child I was
growing fat on mud pies

But little Katie can’t eat the picnic food until she’s used the hand-sanitizer. Freddie’s mum says water-play is fine up to a point, but the bubble-wand rather than the pistol, please, so as not to promote violence, and definitely not the super-soaker for the same reason as the aforementioned pistol, but also because it’s a known fact that a sudden blast of ice-cold water can stop the heart.

“Mollycoddled,” says my mother with a sniff.

There are legions of them: wide-eyed, white-faced mollycoddlees. They paint with apps. Play football on the PS3, get muddy doing Motocross on the Xbox. The world’s their oyster as long as it isn’t after dark, or it doesn’t require them to go out unaccompanied beyond the end of the street. There was one time I got grounded because I’d gone with my friends “over the banks” even when Mum had said I should never ever venture that way because there had been reports of a strange man “up to no good.” We weren’t much fazed by our parents’ warnings. The fear of our own Lonely One gave our games an edge. After all, this was just one long summer in our very own Green Town. Mum and her mates had had the thrill of playing all day in the fields, coming home long after twilight, squealing from the fear of bats in their hair, or worse: Madam Pigott, the local ghost, hitching a ride on their backs.

Little Katie has the attention span of a goldfish, her Mum says. I point out that that particular fact has been debunked (to a degree): the average human attention span is 12 seconds compared to nine for a goldfish. Since the arrival of the smartphone, the human scores eight, which means Nemo has a better chance of learning his times tables than little Katie does. Hold that thought.

a race against time
for Big Pharma...
a slow release
once-a-day caplet
for NDD

“Where’s their get up and go?” my mother asks of the youth of today. “At the bottom of a can of that blimmin’ Red Dog, or whatever it’s called. Where are their friends? On Facetube. The hairdresser was showing me her son’s GoFundMe page on her iPad. What’s that all about?”

“It’s often for charity, Mum.”

“What? Volunteering in Costa Rica? He’s never even been to Wales, so she says. What’s going to happen when we run out of fuel, that’s what I want to know. And as for that there hole in the ozone layer. We’d never even heard of an ozone layer, never mind there being a blimmin’ hole in it. No wonder you spent most of your summers looking like a lobster. What’s wrong with the beauty we have on our doorstep? I know, fracking that’s what. And why do they say they have to start fracking? I tell you, there’ll be tears before bedtime, mark my words...”

what’s the world
coming to?

a child
playing hoop and stick
with a burning tyre


Author’s Notes:

1. The image of the burning tyre can also be viewed in the “OUTSIDE” gallery at

2. NDD: Research suggests that children with symptoms of ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) might, more accurately, be suffering from what Richard Louv calls NDD (nature-deficit disorder) in his book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin Books, 2006).


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