(After Simon Armitage)

Walking home: A Neighbour in the Ward

Peter, grey, oxygen starved, with one unmasked word “Peter”, and

a wave of a hand

I couldn’t help listening to the encouragement

“You are getting better, but

“well for someone of your great age

“it will take longer to get stronger.”

Suddenly Peter decides to get up.

There is a chair beside his bed

Out of nowhere a nurse helps him turn and sit.

Another decision.

I last saw him heave himself to his feet,

grasp a frame: step by step he walked towards the toilet

and towards home.

2  The Story of a Dog in the NightTime
One day, Patricia, who lived in deepest Oxfordshire, decided to hire a van to take a much needed bed to London for her son Lewis the trip involved an overnight stay. She could not take the family dog Tipper with her, and so she asked her husband Nick, immobilised with MS, and his Personal Assistant (PA) Emily to look after the dog and feed in the morning.
A friend Darren helped Patricia to load the bed into the van, and so she set off, with Nick waving goodbye and Tipper contributing a yelp. Nick's bedtime PA Craig came in the evening, fed Tipper, and left both Tipper and Nick securely locked in Nick's flat (which adjoins Patricia's house) to watch the tennis on TV and go to sleep in their respective bed and basket. The tennis almost sent Nick off to sleep, but he noticed Tipper was restless, padding about and scratching the door. Nick woke at about 3 AM in the night to hear a dog in the distance barking. He thought to himself "THat sounds remarkably like Tipper!". He called him with no result. Not wanting wake the neighbours, and being confined to his bed he worried the morning away, until he heard Emily unlocking his front door. "Guess who I found sitting outside – Tipper". How did Tipper escape, and come to be sitting outside the front door of Nick's flat?
 A prize will be given for the correct answer.
 5
At a Tangent
 
We found ourselves in a promised land
once met we were as one.
Directions? You had it all in hand
I was the planet,
and you were my sun.
 
Held by your warmth I regained my youth
or maybe I slept in the shade?
You certainly took the rough with the smooth
I’m sorry my dear;
it seemed custom made.
 
Frustrated now – you have cast me adrift
to wander about, to plot my own course
Elipsing I hope, so we’ll each have a shift
but I flounder in space:
oh my kingdom for a horse!
 
Perhaps you felt our paths were too close?
It can’t have been my wayward thoughts
they were much too casual those
or could it be that my careless life
might land us up in the courts?
 
Had our time together begun to cloy?
It couldn’t be washed from your hair?
And life was needing some other ploy?
We cannot throw them away
those memories still there

 4

 

Abbey Street

Abbey Street

Bald becassocked monks process down here.

Ahead, their humble abbot Aelfric.

Five centuries later in my mind is Abbey Road:

“He got joo joo eyeball
He one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Come together, right now, over me”

The procession is in tears.

Our Abbey is to be torn down

Our Abbott defrocked

His habit summarily torn down

by orders of Henry,

King by divine right.

Then Aelfric spoke: “Keep Calm and Carry On.

Brethren, the people of this village henceforth

will find and revere those broken stones from our dear Abbey"

                        6
Being
Not to find the dawn unfolding with me
as I stretch myself from sleep.
Not to be greeted by blinks of reds or golds among the branches
nor every now and then by watchful garden birds.
Not to savour autumn words from Keats or Hardy or Ali Smith
nor
Not to feel the pleasures of communal life
That would be the death of me
 
 And what would fill the gap
once occupied by those images, things, moves or feelings?
Some thing, some thoughts or some one new?
Perhaps a manifesto, an aphorism, a gesture, a quote,
or something blown on the wind?
One less to protest “you do not do this in my name”?
One less name to be ignored by those in receipt of petitions?
 
No.There will be no gap. We have been overtaken
by those new generations who dance along with their words.
But yes, the wind will carry some pleasures,
some causes joined and yet to be joined.
Something found in those images and those words.
 7
For Lewis on 13 July 2022
 
Besides Happy Birthday, I did not write anything for you on your 18th birthday, nor on your 21st birthday,
although I do have a painting being framed for that.. So here is something for your 22nd birthday:
 
For Lewis on your 22nd Birthday.
 
We tried and tried to find you:
we all kept missing each other,
so we stopped trying so hard
and of course you showed up
signalling your presence with two blue lines.
Your stay with Trish
was a time of great happiness
for all of us.
 
 
And then, pacing around, she could not believe
you were on the threshold until she was ordered to the Labour Ward.
Hanging on for dear life, shocked by your imminent ejection,
you decided to stay put
and had to be coaxed into the daylight.
 
All over the world you were loved.
In her arms, your grandmother Eileen showed you round Australia
Back home we used to sing to you in your bath
Soldier, soldier will you marry me
With your musket pipe and drum?
You put up with us – and seemed to enjoy your part.
“Bring back that little boy” commanded
your Lieutenant Colonel grandfather from his Care Home.
 
When it was time to go to school I loved taking you there
on my knee, on the power chair across the village
and back again to collect you in the afternoon.
Your hugs remind me of those times.
 
Bartholomew’s. You knew you were good at maths but
not wanting to be singled out, you opted to stay with the crowd
and not with the ’Geeks’. Was this an early socialist sign?
At play in the village, was this why you joined a campaign
for a bigger, better designed skateboard park?
 
Astonishingly, one birthday, you had got a lot bigger.
For a surprise, we were to meet you and your friends.
Casting around: where were you? I looked Up
and there you were: confident, beanstalk boys.
That summer, quite prepared to join your schoolfriends
for a swim in the river. I was envious.
A-levels: I was so pleased that you involved me
in your English Literature. Keats, Arthur Miller et al.
You were A-starred. I was better educated.
Amidst all that, your friend contracted cancer
in-patient and out, you supported him
you had grown up. I was so proud.
 
Now you have flown the nest, chosen engineering:
a family tradition.
My heart goes with you in all your choices, Lewis
 
From Dad with love

 8

I don’t know why I’m here, you said
 
I called you at Oaken Holt
You picked up the phone
I don’t know why I’m here, you said
Or was it: I don’t want to be here?
It amounts to the same awful words – or does it?
You could have been wondering, like Eve:
Who had planted you on the planet
And why?
And why didn’t you want to be there?
I had something of a solution to both questions:
Let’s sing a song
We’ll Meet Again
You sang and I sang and you sang better than me.
We enjoyed it, and we enjoyed each other’s company
Together, we were finding the answer

9               It Might Have Been

 
There was no hurry:
At that time, no one hurried along the Kings Road.
Style – looking for something stylish
in the shops, on the street.
What had brought me there?
London had brought me there
Not much else to do, when you’re trying to pick up the odd A-level.:there might be something: didn't know what,
but London put me there.
I joined the shoppers walking towards: World’s End?
Towards me was a girl. For a moment, our eyes met
of course I turned to follow. In one window she found some lovely clothes
oh I wished no one

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