It would be inaccurate to say
I remember chalk springs
and water meadows.
Memory implies they no longer live inside me,
shaping my future,
the clarity of the water chilling my bones.
I can never forget them
or the colour of the foliage
or the too-soon long walk home.
in response to a tweet from @londonlitlab 15/07/21
On Saturday mornings while mum was cleaning we walked along the canal, my hand holding on to one of his fingers. On the way back from the shops he would swing me up onto his shoulders so he could carry bags in each hand. Now I realise how I must have tugged on his hair but he was a quiet man.
Be sensible, son. I know you will be. I was eighteen and leaving home and did not know what sensible meant. Years later I began to understand and he did not judge. Stay as long as you need, son. This is your home. Stay as long as you want. A quiet man.
In the supermarket he gripped the trolley and his legs would not move. As we carried him to the car, he closed his eyes so others would not see his embarrassment. He was silent in the car and until he was safely in his chair in his new home. Thank you, son, he said and I started to tell him thank you for everything but he raised a hand. He was a quiet man.
For Sid, 1915-2008
Julia, 3 years old, is sitting on my lap
Are you Father Christmas?
No, no I’m not.
But you’ve got a white beard.
Yes, but that’s because I didn’t shave during the lockdown.
And you bring us presents.
Yes, but that’s in the summer when we visit, not at Christmas.
And you’ve got a big big belly!
Ok, you got me. I AM Father Christmas!
The missing stage is coffee. Add anywhere in the process.
The country’s colours. Saltire. Tartan.
Surgical. Bananas. Edinburgh Spartans.
Superhero. Butterflies. Suns and moons rising.
Everybody staying safe, everyone still trying.
The man finishes his intervention and bites into his apple – with his desk microphone still on. Twenty other people around the oval table look at one another. The next speaker soldiers on. Apple man takes violent, oddly-timed bites and chews over thoroughly. The twenty other people shift their focus to the woman next to him, eyebrows and foreheads doing a lot of work. Eventually she understands and leans across and turns his microphone off. A quiet satisfaction ripples round the room. He smiles at her and bites into the green apple again. He is louder without the microphone.
Until coffee my life
is a slow
slow motion replay
of every other Sunday morning
it may have been a lizard
or the shadow of a buzzard
I never saw either again
My skin touched the skin of a martyr
many years before. I was trying to protect him
from being attacked. His glasses were broken
into his face and his blood was on my sleeve.
That jacket still hangs
in the back of my wardrobe. I had forgotten it was there
but when I heard went and checked.
It’s old and worn out and tight on the shoulders
and speckled with dried-in black blood.
I washed the blood from my hands
when I went home that evening
and forgot all about it for twenty five years.
There’s tension on the tenement stairs. None of the doors are yet open but you can feel it. Slow time passes. A snag of August rain sweeps in as the street door opens. The first silent children set off for the first day of school, faces pale, clothes for the year too baggy.