The benches in the new square are made of old marble. Children trace their fingers across eroded inscriptions and call out random letters and words. Cars double circle the square, prayers for a parking space unheard at this hour.
The yellow dog in the blackest shade of the trees lifts its head as if to question life, shakes its ears loose and lays down again, one rear paw twitching. It does not move when the rain starts; it knows its place is dry. Parents grasp children and run through the lines of cars, pressing their backs against the walls and windows of shops, sheltering below the mock-baroque balconies.
As street vendors circle the square with hastily procured umbrellas, the rain suddenly stops. Pavements steam and waiters wipe tables. The dog lifts its head again.
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.
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.