Note to self: JJS 31/8/15
I remember the rationing of sweets.
I recall clothes coupons and the last
days of the lamp-lighter in the streets.
will always see the cattle-market
and the off-loading of steers
and chickens in crates,
lines of rabbits cooped in small runs,
barred squares for pigs to squeal and cast.
still hear the steam of the panniers
as they fill their water tanks
or sit panting as their bunkers
clattered with the filling of coal.
feel face pressed, ears squashed
by the railings as we angled our heads
for the first glimpse of the mainline,
be it Manor or Castle or King
blasting under the bridge to scatter
smoke and ashes into its roof
followed by a plume bursting
out of the arch into our faces,
stealing breath as we shout to each other
the name and number of the fine green
playing cricket on a makeshift wicket
with the line of poplars as screens,
squared by the fence to the railway line
and the dotted jerseys with bikes between
that covered the other two sides
The dad, the umpire, the one-step spin bowler
who taught the rag-tag teams to ask for middle and leg,
aim for square-leg,
field at short-leg and chase to long-leg.
Hours in the summer evenings, it seems to me now,
when a dozen or so yelling boys imagined a Test
and the one-legged hero disdained any rest.
The marching band, slowly trudging in step,
medals pinned to the chest of faded coats.
Ex-servicemen, exercising their right to walk in the gutter
and play their music as reminders of their need to work.
Processing the High Street in the wind and wet
to collect sympathetic coins for past wars.
And now we know, now I know,
this fantastic memory was not all it seemed
for beneath those coats, as time wore on
the suits would gleam.
Who cares, not me, I see a line, a troupe of heroes
and hear the brassy, drifting sounds of jazz.
The kaleidoscope of memory, of shifting childhood:
Pick out the moment, the good, the woes.
Or rather sift and layer, savour and balance them out
to place them carefully and wherever they land tread softly
for they may never return.