Manor Park, At Night

Returning, slow-trod, loose-stone fooled,
The Plan: Cut through Manor Park,
A crow-fly route home, after drop and run,
Of the youngest, at the club, for sleep-over.

Ale-oiled, but now slower than before,
Less erect than the white picket fences
(Stolen designs from steam-train times),
And on to the north side of the estate:

Sodium-lit, briefly, crossing Browns Lane.
Leylandii shivered, even fully-dressed,
A cold wind, this high: I assume sight of Brighton’s
False sunset (light-pollution of the cloud line).

No lamps again, blind man’s sticked-trip,
Over drop-plotted, crippled, kerb stones,
Negotiating shadow-buried service slabs,
Momentarily lamp-lit by the Tesco’s van.

Then realising that she did not know:
My ‘dead’ phone, no signalling safety.
Our friends’ homes dark, ‘Do Not Disturb’, etched,
But the third (brightly) welcomed me in:

Heidi called you: ‘Mike’s on his way’;
Pre-mobile, our movements were plotted,
By land line, reverse-charges, red boxes,
Or a known-home: ‘Sixpence in the pot, ta’

Now: Stepped-into, sat in sofa warmth,
Manor Park vouched for me, as safe:
‘Returning via the grocery store,’ assured:
I declined the offer of a lift,

Needing to keep to my odyssey:
Not quite Three Peaks, but my own one hill.
Lime trees, Manor’s old branch-line, routed me home,
Under their wind-whipped original function.

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