Erasers

We were not taught
how to erase –
how best to rub out –
how to remove errors –
instead – we were told to
Put a line through it

Those eye-ruled
mistakes –
our slight aberrations
in our cobbled
curriculum
They were honest flaws

Being seen to fail
won gold stars
against your name
on that constant chart
of
stuck rewards

Now we suffer
others’ comments –
sickly – green-ish –
spilt on social media
We are ink-stained
No dabs of blotting paper

Climate Strikers

For B.M.

Your handmade sign
is stood ready for Friday’s
demonstration against
your distrust in our ways –

My grandfather’s choice
was the Peace Pledge Union –
he then had a quiet war
his boot on his spade’s shoulder

as he sliced dark soil in England
so claiming a holy conscience –
in that amorphous mass
who sought God’s thoughts –

No placards – he sent a postcard –
a small weight of words – first class –
to show his sense of disbelief
at such waste by warmongers –

Carry your panel high for a day –
and then again seven days later –
there is no one else to speak out –
ever since God quit your world


First Year, 1970

Aged five to school – an unplanned addition
M. Bell – born into a monochrome 1964 –
just after real sex was bargained by Larkin –

Miss Green – my teacher – wore the latest
fashions – miniskirts and roll-neck tops
with cropped hair and big jewellery –

all co-ordinated above calf-fixed trends
of highly-shined high heel boots
and her daily sprayed halo scent –

Aged fifteen – my recall of Miss Green
was fixed again – seeing her once more –
she was still wearing 1970 well

when we passed in my dentist’s alleyway –
that red brick shortcut to the High Street –
but she did not recognise me – now fifteen –

A decade earlier she was my cool mother
on school days – she had set me to new words
and easy metrication – before my release

to longer grass and longed-for summerings –
She is now – by my calculations – locked
into her last few years – and still wearing
nineteen seventy


In Earshot

I stopped – I heard the playful howls –
the breaktime hollers from a school –
but my ear-to-the-past
was then frittered by the wind’s shift

which rudely imposed on my
awareness the speeding hum
of rubber treads on the sunken bypass
and flat warnings of vehicle reversing
further dulling the innocent revels –

I lent on a wall – A much-needed breather
I would explain to anyone asking of
my unsteady condition –
To lift the cramps from my legs

and still – the shouts were blocked –
now by a car’s revs over rumbling humps –
but – as quick – the wind dropped
and I turned my head to the past –
once more -with closed eyes –

the blind man’s map – which had shaken
itself as if it were a sail unhitched
from eyelets –
was now doldrum-flat for me
and my sensed route
returned – I do not need to see the road

to know the course for me to rove –
in reverse – over five decades
without this shortened gait of illness – of mine –
I was never – then – one of those sick kids –

The schoolyard was set silent by the whistle –
then to giggled-at-desks – it was penny plain
as I took to learning and then to believe
that our futures were guaranteed to be huge –

I looked up at the vast blackboard and was lost
to calculations and big new words
that succour has been ignored for too long –
my concocted life has left me without
a belief in learning –

And if my first school was heaven – my chance
gone – then I know now – just by listening
that I can find the gates
and find my desk – again –
with my name etched by a held compass
till kingdom come

First Class

As my path-running dog bolts – yet again –
at the vertical thinning of grey squirrels –
I hear – and then see – those almostvermin kids
gather across the far side of the school fields –

where they struggle with bunched keys
to unlock the rattled and knocked store –
where the bright balls and corner flags
are piled behind the fist-drummed tin walls –

There the brazen – almost-male – chorus
of laughs and throat- bubbled testosterone –
of catching-ups – is loud before the blast
of Sir’s voice from afar – which pulls them

to five-a-side battles in their dark uniforms –
until the rattled shed is locked hard again –
I return from those few seconds of my school days
to see the dog waiting – I call to her on my way

Autumn Term

They make the slow haul uphill
with their shop-branded bags
of untried school uniforms

The boy bears his boxed Clarks shoes
as the girl lugs her sweatshop shirts –
freshly picked off Primark shelves –

Still with plenty of growing in ’em
was her mother’s observation
as she calculated the cost of it all

These slack summer holidays
will end not soon enough
for the parents – but not the kids

The hour-numbed regiments
will reform and take the school gates
in their battle colours of navy blue.

Returns

That first day back
of rush-and-forgottens
as this holiday home
is squeezed of teens
and returns to its role
of roof and routine
for another term,
and outside The Unruly
form pairs and packs
on the narrow paths,
back to scattering
their breakfast crumbs
up the hill to school.
And then just the dog.

Humid

You could see the unexpected humidity
in the weep of the trees

almost a rainforest drip in the woods of Sussex

and being tall I had to dip to avoid
the damp stroke of lime leaf on my neck

that of a sweated relative
or grease-ball teacher.

Underfoot the cinder path was an equal impact
on memory as I lugged my groceries

back

back to

that playground in Surrey which grazed kids
and scuffed the sandals
a home to sparkled
stones and shiny ants

and games of ball
chase
kisses
and secret skipping songs of girls.

Return

For CM

You are waking 10,000 feet above me,
a fact I haven’t Googled,
more an ill-educated guess,

that precursor of the internet
when my intelligence was never doubted
by you, or me.

The sky will be different over Alpendorf
when you wake in a rented bed
before your coach-trip return,

when you shall try to slumber, bundled
on two thin seats, plugged into BBC
downloads,

as low Austrian, and dull German
suburban views
lull your plunge, infected to sleep.

Then your swallow-dive off the highs
of steep black runs, into the deep-end
of the dream pool.