Wednesday, August 17, 2011


My walls are covered
in cave writings

transferable graffiti
between generations

passed between
number one daughters

like passwords
in the air at the first snow

tribal smudges bruise
my Achilles' heel

to scrape squeegee clean
or saddle-up and ride

Tess Kincaid
August, 2011 

Thanks to R.A.D. Stainforth for reading this piece.  Check out his excellent blog, Black Dogs.

Click here for more Magpie Tales.


  1. My brother and i shared a room as children. We spent much time in the safety of those four walls, we learned early that in that room we were out of the eye sight of our father...

    Our mother wanting to protect us from him, allowed us to stay in there and paint on the walls. We drew cowboys and indians, quotes, words, doodles.

    In my 20'2 I moved out to my own apartment. When I left that room all our "drawings" still decorated the walls, my mum never painted that room saying it was my brothers and my history...

    Your poem brought back those memories...thank you :)


  2. That is a marvelous story, David. I love that your mother appreciated creativity enough to allow your walls to become your personal history. xx

  3. Tess, this is another excellent post.


  4. As an only child, I cannot relate to some of this.
    Besides, I've always thought the journey itself was the destination.

  5. Wonderful, Tess.

    I'm a bit choked up with David Allen Water's comment.

  6. The last couplet: it is to swoon! Hats off to you for that one.

    And David Waters, above, posted one of the most touching comments I have ever read. Wow. All powerful stuff.

  7. Allowing the wall to be scribbled with graffiti is hilarious. But I wonder if most mothers allow it.

  8. It's the rare mom who allows graffiti-covered walls ... as rare as your Magpie! One of my favorite Tess creations.

  9. I agree--David's words, and the fact that your poem drummed up the memories of that, are special...

  10. "If left to me, I'd
    Saddle up and ride."
    --Steve E

  11. i definitely like this one! subtle story telling in the least words possible, i'm a fan. :)

  12. nice...very cool write it that walls are covering family no matter the form...really enjoyed your close...

  13. I like. There are walls here others would like me to paint. But they have a history. I’d rather not touch. Others say I’m just lazy.

  14. Very kool I can relate. Some best things I've read have come from children's writing on the wall. Wnjoyed this. Thanks for the visit to my page.

  15. "passed between
    number one daughters"

    I love that.

  16. Evocative, it's a lovely dilemma to have don't you think...Cheers mate!

  17. I scrubbed for a week trying to remove the etchings of my nights... mom thought it was pencilled on the paint when in actuality it was carved in.

    Boy does this bring back memories.

  18. It was mostly us as parents who did the scribbling on our children's bedroom walls. My daughter had Mrs Puddleduck etc, and the boys had mostly super-heros. All gone now I imagine.

  19. ...'my walls are covered in cave writings' - i like that... i could picture many many things from that line... mostly primitive days, i should say... thanks for the photo prompt this week.. i enjoyed it!(:


  20. What a lovely piece, Tess.
    Our childhood rooms are like 'caves'.
    And I agree, David's comment is both beautiful and powerful, a story all in itself.

  21. Like David, I was protected from my father by being virtually locked in my room. The only big difference was that we were too poor to have anything to decorate the walls. Creativity was never stifled though, as the brightest of colours were stored in my brain to be freed at a later date.

  22. Tess,
    Paint or paper; underneath there is always a story. No matter if squeeking clean, doodled, or filled with shotgun pellets.

  23. beautiful poem and love the David Waters story too.

  24. Just once, I want you to:

    1. Get drunk before recording the poem.

    2. Read the poem in a British accent.

    3. Record the poem while someone is tickling you.

    4. Sing the poem to the tune of your favorite 1980's sitcom theme song.

    MIX IT UP, GIRL!!!

  25. As always, your journey goes forth with beauty and originality!

  26. Marcheline, it's just a simple reading of the poem, not a dramatic slam performance. I'd be curious to hear you read one of your own, by the way.

  27. Love this poem, thank you for sharing it! Very nicely done, brings back a lot of memories.

  28. Receive and you shall give. generation to generation. Nice poem. -- barbara

  29. Took me back to the house I was brung up in, which I hadn't thought of for years.

  30. Oh Tess... that picture prompt stirred something in me... I was so touched by David Waters story... I too felt my own reflections....

  31. I have to agree with everyone about David Allen Waters - Powerful stuff. Your poetry inspires so much from so many. Bravo Tess - I can't wait to get my copy of Pantina:)Kristen

  32. Sorry I meant Patina not Pantina oops <3

  33. I'll always saddle up and ride! thanks-

  34. Exquisite poem, Tess-- I know of those tribal smudges... you work with the deep image and your poems are so deceptively delicate, beautifully wrought. xxxj

  35. "... transferable graffiti between generations ..."


  36. Pictographs /passed like passwords/,
    I love it! Is this the bedroom that
    you just repainted? I kept a lot of
    my old drawings, sketches, doodles,
    for decades, finding the lush history,
    the mossy nostalgia, but then one
    day I realized all my parents and
    grandparents are dead, and so
    I recycled the paper. Your reading
    gave it the loving and ironic edge.
    Have not composed my response
    yet. I've saddled up, so now let's

  37. tribal smudges ...nice painting Tess...bkm

  38. Very nice, Tess. We, too, have secrets left on walls, covered now by others' secrets. Love this one.

  39. Wonderfully filled with pictographs and warmth. I'm wondering how to save the heights marked on a kitchen wall.

  40. Tess, my daughter put stickers on everything. Her way of making her room her own. (Really hard to get off the walls and doors.) When my granddaughter started decorating the 'kid room' with stickers, her dad and stepmom scolded her, but goo remover is at the store when the time comes. David's comment touched my heart. Sounds like he had a good mom.

  41. I love the cave writing analogy, Tess.

  42. My ride comes furnished
    in cave like pics

    early songs
    brothers sisters
    share at dawn
    and after midnight

    when eloquent sounds
    that ordanarize in light

    remembered distortedly
    as adults
    the big tree
    a sappling
    the giant room
    a closet

  43. Tess,
    Beautiful write and no wonder it brought forth so many memories. It also brought out one of mine-finding my own name written inside a drawer of my childhood dresser, way in the back, when I was painting it for my own daughter. I left it there.

  44. Delightful poem. My kids never wrote on the walls though, nor did I as a kid. I love the words "cave writings".

  45. Anonymous, a few years ago, I visited the house in rural Indiana were my grandparents once lived. The current owners were kind enough to let me in for a peek. It was astonishing how the living room had become a closet. Lovely poem, thank you.

  46. I enjoyed this Tess -- the password concept struck me as the 'key' to unlock the mystery and true identity of each who inhabited the room...

  47. Distinctive, intriguing word choices and flow - wonderful stuff.

  48. The passage of time etched in the walls of a home. My childhood home is still one of wonder (however old and crumbling stucco it is!).

    Hope you're having a lovely summer, Tess!

  49. 'transferable writings between generations' this line,Tess.
    Have been just been given copies of old pantomime scripts my father once wrote ..very precious and treasured.

  50. I always had a secret place (out of sight) where I scratched tiny pictures - hieroglyphs full of secret meaning known only to me...
    This brought back memories, thanks.

  51. Wonderful words Tess, wonderful.

    Anna :o]

  52. tess
    as always you create dreams
    and rich visuals with your delicate words.

    i can relate to the fantasy world david and his brother created.
    i think he should rush over and take pictures that he can keep forever.
    someday the walls WILL be painted over....and it will be as if it were never there.
    he will be happy in 30 yrs that he has them.
    he can show his own children. no?


  53. saddle up and ride!

    tess, i ordered your poetry book but have never received it. should it have come by now?

  54. Angella, they are running several weeks behind...soon now!

  55. I've painted some walls and my mom kept some graffiti's intact..she still looks at them and smiles at our innocence then...

    What a wonderful magpie Tess, you truly know how to bring back some lovely memories!

  56. This delighted me!
    When my husband took out a faux wall in the bathroom of our old house (built in 1910) a few years ago we found the original wood siding with writing and some old news clippings stapled onto it. They didn't mean anything of great least to us, but we kept them there and added our own notes before he installed sheetrock for the remodeling.

  57. Way back in the dawn of time I remember reading the 'Clan of the Cave Bear' series of books... There was something in there about inherited memories from generations before... Anyway, this poem brought be back to that - and that was a good memory! Thank you so much for both the poem and the Mag prompt!

  58. Love the transferable graffiti--and the first daughter to first daughter.
    This is marvelous; thank you. And thank you for the most interesting prompt (which is now past, ideas come too late).

  59. Tess - I get it. It's just that sound is such a rich, wonderfully wide medium.

    The whole point of reading something aloud is to expand the hearer's experience of the words, not just to "print" them with your voice.

    I was thinking what great variations, moods, and layers you could add to each poem by creating it with different choices in pronunciation, pitch, and maybe even sounds in the background.

    Of course, those are just ideas that came to me while reading your blog, which is why I put them in the comments. If commenters only praise you and stroke you and never urge you to stretch and do different things, they do you a disservice.

    P.S. I have been looking for my folder of poems and can't find it. When I do, I will post and record some!

  60. Dear Tess: Everyone of your words is loaded with memory triggers of raising the children whilst painting over those memories never erased. Excellent way you have with words; so creative and fresh!


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)