The gully, or: Machete


There was a gully behind...
So we called it, anyway, although...
the house that I grew up in;
actually, it might not have been.
It was hidden by the trees at the back...
Looking back, I never questioned what...
of my backyard, past the leaves of poison ivy;
the kids called it; I adopted its name.
I learned that the hard way.


For all of my imagination...
I used to love sneaking off back there...
somehow, I was profoundly unimaginative;
often by myself, and sometimes with
after all, it only made sense that there would be
my friend from across the street, who
houses on the other side of my gully, a street
could only get there through my backyard
that I was unaware existed.


Peaking through the trees lining the other side...
It always gave me a thrill, a sense...
with my friend from across the street,
I'm sure that my parents never set foot there,
we saw another boy playing in a yard.
All those brambles, the uneven, pocked earth;
a boy that I knew from school! Shocked,
it was a no man's land - who even owned it?
I stammered, "What are you doing here?"


Jon looked at me like a crazy person...
I also remember that old, rusted machete...
"I live here. What are you doing here?"
That was such a find! My pirate
"Oh, my house is on the other side
treasure... imagine a boy's excitement
of the gully; that's what we call
at finding a huge, proud knife like that.
this place. This is my friend Justin."


Somehow, for no reason that I can recall...
And those two older boys, much older
I would hide the secret machete (why
than Justin and me, who asked us if the girls
did I keep it secret?) outside, in the gully.
in fifth grade had started developing
Justin was the only other person who knew
"mosquito bites" on their chests yet.
of my treasured blade and its hiding place.


We considered their question
Then, one day, the machete was gone. Just gone.
with very serious expressions on our faces;
Right away, I knew that Justin had it.
"Maybe just a little bit," we responded,
I confronted him a day later in his garage;
as if we were biding our time, waiting for them
the machete was up on the wall. "My father says,
to develop breasts for us to suck on.


'it's his; and besides, it's too dangerous
Justin and I never went back to the gully together again.
for kids.'" I knew he was lying to me. He had stolen
Actually, I think that ended our friendship,
my treasure; but, as a ten-year-old I couldn't lay claim
and the sting of betrayal and foolishness
to a machete that wasn't rightfully mine
hasn't worn off decades later.
in the first place.

Let’s write poetry together!

When it comes to partnership, some humans can make their lives alone – it’s possible. But creatively, it’s more like painting: you can’t just use the same colours in every painting. It’s just not an option. You can’t take the same photograph every time and live with art forms with no differences.

Ben Harper (b. 1969)

Would you like to create poetry with me and have a completed poem of yours featured here at the Skeptic’s Kaddish? I am very excited to have launched the ‘Poetry Partners’ initiative and am looking forward to meeting and creating with you… Check it out!

29 thoughts on “The gully, or: Machete”

  1. Childhood can be so difficult. Children often make mountains out of molehills. And cling to hurt feelings. But isn’t that what adults do too? Uh-oh! Some never grow up. I think children are probably smarter. Haha! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Love the layering of narrative in this – it made me think of how childhood is such a mix of emotions and knowledge, things half understood and how many hard lessons there are to learn.

    1. it came out this way spontaneously, which I feel is a positive thing, in terms of me connecting with the form of the poem.

      I know it’s a bit hard to read, but this is how the memory FEELS to me, ya know?

      Thanks, Marion.


      1. I think good poetry needs to be read several times, getting more out of it each time you read it. And I would say that poetry is mainly about expressing yourself spontaneously. So, as far as I’m concerned, a big tick in both of those boxes! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜Š

  3. A wonderful way to tell a “coming of age” story – complete with betrayal and a hint at sexual awakening. That combination often signals the ending and beginning of friendships….

  4. Interesting form and engaging poetic story, David, that reminded me of a time when children explored and roamed more, and of course those childhood exchanges that don’t always end well. ๐Ÿ˜ž Our childhood offers a treasure trove of poetry subjects, if we choose to go there.

  5. Creative but confusing, when there’s such a great story there, obscured somewhat even on understanding. I lack, obviously, a poet’s soul, have an unwillingness to mask my thoughts in form, especially so since, writing as I think, many often cannot follow my meanings when I labor for clarity. A good work, but sometimes, as I suggested earlier in an exchange, I feel cheated that I have to work so to get to the truth of what an artist says. I tell myself it’s the difference between Da Vinci and Picasso, the poet’s (or artist’s) prerogative.

    1. I totally get that. Obviously, my decision was deliberate. I am playing with words and poetic forms in order to convey something more than their dry meanings. This was intended to leave you feeling a bit discombobulated ๐Ÿคญ

    1. I felt so dumb that I hadn’t kept it in my garage and that I had trusted Justin. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

      Having a machete at age 10 was really cool while it lasted ๐Ÿ™‚

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