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.

Written in Water.

I walk the edge of the sea,
watching the waves turn,
rolling out the minutes,
aligning the days,
singing the years.

My life has been written here,
my path freshly worn each day,
wiped clean by the tide.
My mark is made in shifting sand,
reflected in a shining sky,
blown out by the wind,
dampened by shivering grey fret.
A moment’s hubris.
It is for now.
It will not last.

Thoughts cast out
across the surface
of a floating world
lie for a moment,
then fade downwards.
Words unspoken, fears refuted,
joys concealed.
Lives lost in the darkness of the sea.
The sea which has heard everything
and says nothing.

I walk the edge of the sea,
rolling out the minutes,
aligning the days,
singing the years,
taking my time.

Here lies one whose name was writ in water. Feb 4th 1821.
John Keats epitaph.

To this favor.

Drawn out, withered muscles
struggle to find strength.
Veins trace their way across
parched, translucent skin.
Here is the essence of a person
laid bare, anatomised.
Life preserved, dried, made strong.
A whole being reduced to
one slow, concentrated movement.

Fierce, fixed concentration
struggles through pain,
labouring to do what once came easily,
with unnoticed skill.
Hunted, angry eyes
stare out from a private place.
A hidden wealth of knowledge
fights fiercely from the core of its being,
still vibrant, wanting to live.

“Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this favor she must come. Make her laugh at that.”
Hamlet. Act 5 Scene I

I am not old.

I am not old,
although I will be old,
and sooner than I can possibly imagine.
I stare at the prospect
from the safety of middle age,
pretending that my life
is only half over.

I am not old,
but I have seen those who are
as they make their way ahead of me.
I have seen their wisdom.
I have seen their strength.
I have seen them belittled.
I have seen them suffer.

They have listened to things
that we will never hear,
been to places that we will never know,
held themselves fast against a rip tide.
They have watched and waited
as their world dwindled away
into the twilight of the past.

We are standing on their shoulders,
walking the road that they paved,
while they keep their secrets.
They are our future-
the future we dare not talk of.
They are ourselves.
We owe them.
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Who Am I?

I come when you least expect me.
I watch and wait.
I take without warning.
I keep, without a backward glance.
I have no pity.
I have no mercy.
I have no thoughts.

You may cry as much as you like,
send out your salt tears
into the bleeding heart of the sea,
I will not hear.
Scream out at the injustice
of a broken world,
I will do nothing.
Your sorrow will be carried on the wind
and pass straight through my heart,
leaving no trace.
I will not reach out.
Your anger will slip over the waves,
swirling around my feet
while I stand, silent and unknowing.
I will not hit back.

While your memories slip away
into the cold, clinging mist,
I shall remain.
I shall endure.
You will bow to me.
You will succumb.

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My Dad.

We waded out in our wellies.
and made bottle traps
to catch tiny brown minnows.
as they darted downstream.
We kept them swimming
in a water butt and fed them well
until their time had come,
and soon a thirty pound pike
was hanging on the washing line
waiting to be cooked up
for our cat Judy.

We made kites from plastic sacks
stretched over thin bamboo canes,
perfectly balanced
with long bowed tails
that rose up overhead.
They danced in the wind.
We built spitfires and hurricanes
and Lancaster bombers.
We walked round hilly pilly lands.
We went out on our bikes
and freewheeled down Acklam hill
with our legs stretched out,
heading into the sun.

My dad was cool.
He rode a BSA Bantam,
with a helmet and goggles
that frightened the dog.
He brought me dozens of cars home.

We watched Danger Man,
and The Sweeney together.
We had no idea what was going on
in The Prisoner,
but we knew it was good.
We cheered on Illya Kuryakin
in The Man From UNCLE,
We saw all the best people live.
Tommy Cooper, Bob Monkhouse,
Les Dawson, Des O’Connor, Ken Dodd,
we saw them all,
and we loved them.

My dad made the best gravy
and the best mashed potatoes ever.
and when I came home hungry each week
from my Saturday job in W.H.Smiths
he made the best ham, egg and chips.

My dad was tall and strong.
He could jump high,
kill wasps with his bare hands,
and dig huge hairy worms
who had buried themselves deep
underneath the sand.
My small legs ran behind him
struggling to keep up.

My dad was kind.
He was always on my side,
defending me from strangers,
bringing me home.
He could whistle in tune,
and when he came home for his lunch
I was excited because I could hear him
coming down the road……..

I can hear him now.

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The Chenille Tablecover.

“You don’t want to keep this, do you?”
A question thrown away with a glance,
expecting the answer, no.
A chenille tablecover is hauled out,
held up,
displayed like an ancient shroud.
Limp.
Unresisting.
Threadbare.
Its day has passed,
It’s purpose gone.

And yet………..
I remember a small child
who hid underneath it
peering from beneath the fringe.
A small child who got into trouble
for discovering the satisfying way
that the tassels on the edge
could be ravelled and unravelled
over and over again.
A small child who leaned forward
to pick at the weak points in the cloth
where the geranium pot stood,
and made little piles
of green fuzz,
injuring my grandmother’s pride.
A chenille tablecover
was a mark of self respect.
“In this house we clear the table,
put things away,
keep things nice.”
My hiding place was safe,
warm, respectable.
Under the dark folds
of its embrace
nothing could hurt me.

Yes I want it,
of course I want it.
It is a tattered standard to raise
in honour of my childhood.
A relic that can never be thrown away
which bears the marks of innocence
fear and love.

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