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||Edwin Drood's Column
||18 June 2013
|While Edwin is absent Hugh Featherstone shares some childhood memories.|
The world I knew when I was small
slid sideways to the left
“Bracken Path”, our bit of it
before it merged with “Bramble Walk”
budded a crescent where our Georgian box-house lurked
halfway up an alley no one could really call a drive
hidden from the half ring of mongrel architecture
set around that bristly cake of couch-grass
a microscopic wilderness of buttercup and nettle
where we built Troy, re-fought the Civil War
bayoneted Huns, were shot in the gut (as Indians often are)
or died in lethal showers of Zulu metal
were few in the fifties and somehow old, even when new
they basked in the oily sunlight, two wheels on the grass
I remember a loaf-shaped Messerschmitt
- its cockpit stripped of guns -
or a smart blue Morris with its shiny bobby caps
and a sort of almost-Armstrong, pocked with rust
that leaned upon on a greasy wedge of wood
a bubble-car from Italy and a grey-brown plastic Bond
one third of its wheels off, grimed with dust:
these lined the gravel of the crescent’s lower curve
the gentle slope I walked to school
the sweet-shop or the pond
Though thinly numbered in our gang of thieves
- sisters being vetoed by common accord -
there were a few girls of skinny otherness
whose hair smelt, well, different ...
just clean, perhaps?
and whose legs, whenever I could glimpse them
made me feel privileged for every creamy inch
aged eight, I locked one in a rabbit hutch
it forms the basis of our friendship still
for I have no memory of letting her out
And there were mothers too, so young, so fresh from war
their skirts were wide as bells and brimmed with summer colour
and you could hide your head in them, as bees in flowers
all confidence, they hung our kitchen door with gauzy light
talking their practical code, a language closed
to those ancients in their mock-gothic brick
who leaned on gates (yes, really) and smiled and nodded
and smoked their Woodbines and recalled
how narrowly they’d missed the Blitz
but knew someone who hadn’t
With the cheeriest of cheerios (I was much loved)
I’d rev my pedal car and speed away
from their nostalgia into my own bright day
for I was modern then, not yet begun to see
that all our worlds were sliding sideways to the left
and soon would slide away from them and me
From Bird under water, a selection of poems by Hugh Featherstone
© Hugh Featherstone
Another poem from this selection will appear next time the Drood's away.
The Bird under water homepage includes a foreword by Hugh Featherstone
and a linked list of the poems as they appear.
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