Daylight catches him up
and thrusts devotion upon him
like an unwanted gift.
It lies torn open, hidden
under the bed.
It could not be refused: he accepted –
but tried to change it. Could not.
Changed his costume instead.
Bland. Waited until he felt ready
to wear his rainbow stripes.
came up to me and whispered low
‘my balloon has the universe
inside, just for me’
I agreed that was marvellous
a wonder indeed
that he could hold
that held a universe
He sensed I was not
just humouring him
the set of my mouth,
the giggle in my eyes
told him of disbelief and
a patronising attitude
he said again
‘the universe is in it!
not foolin’ or joking
it scares me sometimes
that I might let it go
who knows who might grab
the universe in their hands
bad hands, careless hands’
I began to sweat
not from belief
but from a possibility that he
in a way that twisted
tormented his mind with the string
held tight in a small hand
while the eyes stared in fear
‘what if I brush a pin,
and it pops
what happens to us?
with a universe exploding in our faces?
will the universe expand
will there be room
for the world…
I thought and said
‘if you have the universe contained
then we’re in there too
and all the popping will do
is put the universe into the universe
because we’re in there
and out here
all at the same time’
he looked so thoughtful
and I could see the idea
working its way through
and the child who barely
reached up to my waist
worked it out
he reached for a rose
growing nearby just there
and broke off a thorn
and studied it well
before he looked at me
‘I hope you’re right’
My Mother’s Things
My mother’s things, there are so few of them,
She’d always chuck things in the bin if there
Was just a hint that they were making up
Their minds to irritate. ‘No bloody good,’
She’d say, accusingly, and anything
And everything would go. Not one trace left
That I was once a child. All gone: my toys,
My books, my Sheffield Wednesday scarf, my soft
Brown monkey that I used to take to bed.
All her stuff’s gone as well. Just one tin box
For life insurance policies and snaps
And birth and death certificates and two
St Margaret’s parish magazines. One with
My christening, one with my father’s death.
Her life stripped down to what she thought it meant.
Not much, I seem to hear her say, Not much.
Drawing the Shade
This beach is never blank.
In spite of the wind’s whip and the swipe of the waves
it lies under sky like an open page,
its ridged lines written by the tide
as though the moon has pressed her frowning forehead to the sand.
Here bladderwrack spells out darkly
in gothic script the water-logged names of the sea;
and the dot-dash of cockle and razor shell
encoding a secret, safe and salty;
the pattern of runes printed by sea-birds’feet, untranslatable.
We and our shadows walk the shore.
Yours is short and never still. Mine,
a measure of my days, stretches long to the West.
Seabirds, circling, freckle the sand with shade.
I throw my arms wide, hair a halo in the east wind,
and you begin to draw
with your spade around the shape my shadow makes.
The plastic blade slices wet sand. Your small hand
cannot hold the line, swerving out of true.
You make a botch of me. We laugh, and race towards the sea.
And this is what the years will do.
Some time distant you will half-recall the day,
the beach whose mysteries you pondered; and someone –
outline wavering, face no longer clear –
sketched in sand between one tide and the next.