The Deep End

I watched Elena bathing
in the pool of the lower garden
amid birdsong and toiling insect
light shimmering in the heat
she’s a big girl, there’s more to love
and the water must feel warm against her toes
O, life is kind some days

I watched Elena swim, for hours
to and fro, up and down
the pool my father dug
there is nothing of which she’s ashamed
stepping from the water, standing bare
stretching hands above her head
and diving at the deep end
my eyes there with her every movement

I watched Elena sunbathe
on a bamboo bench against the North wall
she looked so bronze and peaceful
in the quiet of the lower terrace
spiders scuttling across the backs of my knees
lying face down in the tree house
O, life is kind sometimes

I watched Elena stepping back into her dress
as the sun contemplated a slow retreat
picking up her wicker bag, she rolled back across the wall
hopped down onto the dusty gravel road
wandered slowly back into the town

I found her necklace, left at the water’s edge
wrapped it twice around my thin wrist
flicked a long nail against the hanging ‘E’
longingly, I watched the fiery light
dance upon the water
but I never saw Elena again…

[2014]

Tourist Trap

Holidaying as a teenager
back when time moved slower
and thoughts were many
I’d cruise the gift shops
reviewing tacky souvenirs
This used to be a fishing village
now it’s a tourist trap

And picking up a handmade bear
with wonky mouth and vacant stare
big button eyes and blood red lips
I’d wonder of its maker, its creator
someone dreamed
this bear into the world
someone thought this expression
made it look cute

Was it modeled on a relative
was it ripped-off from some other toy
was its designer trying
to give a child some joy
or only focused on the ringing
of cash registers
and paying the bills
Did they live locally
or somewhere overseas?

Looking at the toy
I’d be overtaken with a sadness
that someone tried and someone cared
if only for a moment
in their little lives

I’d set it back
and wonder
‘will this still be here
on the same shelf
next year?’

[2020]

For Jordan

Out driving our first cars at night
snaking the blackness of North East country roads
I’d flick the headlights off
hear the girls scream
then back on and we’d crack up laughing

In our town, there wasn’t much to do
but wander looping streets
haunt the park outside of college
blow house to house, see who was home
or spend it lying in your bedroom laughing

When you and Chris split, he handled it okay
drank too much a week or two and then
got a little down but everything went on
still way too soon for Mike to tell you
so we all sat as friends and laughed

Back then, I couldn’t think of much else but Jenny
but I loved the way you’d say my family name
still hear it ringing from the depths of memory
standing with you in some sticky bar
and you collapsing into Mike laughing

They were gentle times, good times
before we were scattered wide
I don’t think I saw or thought of you that often
twenty years just paced before our eyes
how I hope you kept on laughing

With your man, your son
your life carved out somewhere…

On a Brighton beach, one weekend this summer
Mike was chatting, said ’the cancer took you’
and nothing more to add to that
just taken – that’s all he knew
there on the pebbles, I stood, winded and weeping

Just taken – nothing more to add to that

Jordan, it was laugher, laughter
of you; that will always be my memory
sweet laughter, laughter
and the way you spoke my family name…