Every childhood lasts a lifetime.

Every childhood lasts a lifetime.
The cuts, the stings, the bites, the bruises,
the hand held tight, the fears, the laughter.
A search for self knowledge,
forged in the white heat
of other people’s prejudices.

Making choices, reaching out,
trying on other lives for size.
Growing into ourselves.
We look, we watch, we wonder,
searching for a place to call our own,
lost among people who are not like us.

There is only the future, no death, no endings,
limitless dreams to explore or waste.
A soft path beckoning us on.
Grass covered, made for running,
stretching out into a haze
of possibilities we cannot see.

Later, much later, we return, battle hardened,
to find the home that we always knew,
and within it an eager heart still beating,
wings outstretched, beak open,
an empty throat, straining to be fed.
Our wisest, truest self.
on

Cow Parsley.

It’s the scent I notice first.
I have walked among it all my life
without thinking.
Still air, loaded with summer.
Long stalks shoot up,
fast growing, opportunist,
searching for light.
Tiny sprays of white
in a shambles of dull green
which fill every hedgerow.
Every piece of waste ground
teems with them.
There is nothing special here,
nothing to draw the eye,
yet each year they come,
claiming their space.
Their delicate beauty
is easy to walk past-
easy to condemn,
strim, scythe, behead,
but still they break into flower,
seizing their chance,
growing fast in the warm rain,
keeping faith,
being alive.
They seize their moment,
finding comfort in numbers,
shivering nervously
as they wait in hope.

Fifteen Minutes.

The click of a door.
Heads turn.
A smiling face,
here to do a simple thing well.
Here to heat up chicken soup.
Make tea.
Bring life.
Here to give fifteen minutes
of his youth and eagerness
to two people whose youth is kept
locked away in a faded wedding photograph.
His own needs remain elsewhere.
His name is Joe.

He is here to do a simple thing
which has been taken out of their reach
by the ravages of time.
A ring pull too strong
for a fragile wrist.
A hot pan
too heavy to lift.
An empty kettle
with a lid that sticks.
There is no illness here,
just a slow ebbing away.
A failing.
A loss.

He has looked in the bread bin
and he is worried.
There is bread,
almost a whole loaf,
but it is out of date.
Over a week out of date.
They ask for bread.
They tell him it will be fine.
He is not sure.
He brings the soup without it
and they eat it silently
without asking where the bread is.
He is relieved.

A breezy, “is there anything else you need?”
A scattering of gratitude,
a door clicking shut.
He is gone,
and the life in the room leaves with him.
Empty faces turn back to the quiz show
which glitters and flashes
across the television screen.
She points at the contestant.
“I don’t like him.”
He nods.
No questions are answered.

On the cliff top.

Lay out your thoughts gently,
across a haze of misty blue.
Allow the sea to speak-
to be is not always to do.
You are not what you have earned.

Up sticks and take stock-
there are secrets to find,
new discoveries waiting,
hidden at the back of your mind.
See what you know.

Our striving is just waves on water,
driven by the winds of chance.
Waves sweep across our surface,
rolling, repeating, remembering,
hiding hidden currents of fear.

Breathe in deeply.
Relish the fresh clear air.
Put your life on hold.
Be here- now!

Digging for Bait.

My dad and I spent hours at low tide
searching for worms.
Special worms.
Nothing like the ones at home.
Worms straight out of science fiction,
worms from lurid, shouting posters,
worms from the pits of hell.
Evil worms.
They had thick black hairy skin
and their pulsating bodies
lay hidden beneath the sand.
They were right there
under your feet.
Waiting.

Each worm lay between a tiny wet circle
and a little swirling pile of sand.
It was my job to look for these,
my dad’s job to dig.
Fast.
As soon as the worm felt that sand move
it sensed danger,
and it tunneled downwards
in a race for its life.
Rippling muscles, fear,
soft sand and the incoming tide
were pitted against my dad’s skill.
The losers ended up
squirming in a dirty bucket,
guts spilling out,
dying by inches.
One more body among many.
A freak show for visiting children to stare at-
objects of disgust and loathing.
All dignity gone.

It was the razor clams
who I felt sorry for.
They were hard to catch.
Long and elegant.
Beautiful. Sharp. Fast.
They lay far out on the beach,
low down in the sand,
like a special secret.
Sometimes if I begged hard
my dad allowed me to take one from the bucket,
lay it down on the sand and watch.
Just when I had lost hope
a strong white tongue
would slip out from the end of the shell,
curl downwards,
and stroke the sand gently,
preparing a way.
Finally, in a sudden lunge
that made me feel like cheering,
the whole shell would rise in the air
and shoot downwards
in a rush of celebration.
Gone.
Each one a life saved.

Roots.

When I was a child
I scrambled along this same track,
my feet skimming these same roots.
I still know the footholds.
I was racing up my life,
eager to wear a new path
into adulthood,
longing to begin.

More than fifty years ago,
not quite a lifetime.

Each step was an adventure.
Grabbing hands,
curling toes
and silent shouts
forged a shortcut,
reaching out,
making an adventure
out of a long, dull trudge
up grey concrete steps,

More than fifty years ago,
in a different world.

Since then new young feet
have kept these roots visible,
as they climbed headlong
into their own lives,
kicking back the traces.
Each new generation has removed the earth,
saving them for the future,
and preserving the past.

It was more than fifty years ago,
but some things endure.