Children at the long table
These years you cannot tell when it is July,
but for the beating in children’s hearts.
Because it follows school break-up, they believe this must be summer.
In other years, we have stood blinking by the road side,
as a young boy loosens his collar to launch a band pole into the air.
When the day was through, that was all I could remember –
the sweating, squat-legged boy, waiting for the pole to land,
so he could twirl it over his fingers like a magician’s coin.
His open-mouthed concentration,
as he snaked the pole in front of one knee then behind the other,
the gasp when he dropped it, clattering,
his confidence unwavering as he prepared himself to go again.
You’d see two such boys, if you were lucky.
C’mon our Jonny. Fling it, wee Graham, fling it!
I come across a photo of my first street,
my mother, expecting to become a mother
from the fourth of July,
has another fortnight before they break her waters.
With the other women she watches from the kitchen chair brought outside,
side by side, and bums on laps,
thirty or more youngsters from surrounding streets,
and before them, a butterfly bun and bottle of cloudy lemonade,
two union flags in a vase at the midway point,
speakers plugging open a neighbour's window,
as the music crackles outside.
My Girl, a hit from '91, hit the flicks
when our school was still 300 yards thattaway,
Like Vada Sultenfuss in her rose-pinned velvet hat,
the girls covered their hair on Saturdays off, to swoon about town
with two pound coins tanging in denim pockets, salt from the marina
levelling out inside chippie cones; this is how we got the time in.
These days how many of us come back here?
We are a list of names to each other, like we were movie
characters raked up by black painted fingernails
hoovering over ouji boards and tarot cards.
Death was the theme of the movie: friendship
and the loss of innocence. Vada would kiss
her poster of David Cassidy, we had our own edition.
The picture was set in our parents' time, the way we feed
our children on our leftovers. Mood rings and beestings,
these are what growing girls are made of.
Our girls and our boys assign us a pickup time, two hours later.
Light, starting in a pinhole, illuminates the screen,
still. We return where time winds on – except on the velvet pillow
of a mother's jewellery box, where a pink Timex ceases to tick.