Bordeaux Bay

Bordeaux Bay
Watercolour by Tony Taylor http://www.paintingbreaksguernsey.com

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

THE HISTORY BOYS

As I march steadily towards yet another birthday I remind myself that, already, many of the boyhood friends who started out on this same strange journey have failed to make it this far.
Here's a poem, from my Stone Witness collection, that commemorates one such youthful friendship. 














TWENTY-ONE

We started out with cocoa tins
attached by string: 
a telephone
of sorts; progressed to proper phones,
old army surplus; wired them up
and strung a line from my bedroom, 
to yours next door. 

We formed a link
that bound us fast through teenage years:
fifth form, sixth form, till, 
on you went to uni, I to unsought work.

Where you were cerebral and gauche,
I was the opposite, and yet
we hit it off: no other friend,
before or since, meant half so much.

In those strange, final months, we seemed
to drift apart: you went away
and I, in turn, 
went elsewhere too.

Estranged at twenty-one, we were.
You didn’t live to twenty-two.

Your picture, pale, in newsprint grim,
beside the stark facts of your death,
remains my image of you now
a half a century away.

My vanished childhood friend, 
you look so innocent, 
so fresh of face:
forever in a state of grace.




By way of a Bonus Track, here's the story of another Lost Boy.





















 








THE BIG TREE

The boy was climbing a tree. It begins that way: a boy climbing a tree all those years ago in the green-spring wood that was our world, untroubled as Eden: a small figure ascending through leafscape towards sunlight. 
Below, by the tree’s foot, other children gathered and called out encouragement as he climbed through a network of branches and leaves, soft as goose-feather.
We named it The Big Tree, our woody Everest, a mountain of bark and bough, king of the wood, huge among legions of lean, lesser trees, a giant encircled by mortals.
I remember that day: the scent of mulch, woodsmoke, the sound of birdsong. School had broken up for the Easter holidays. We’d gathered at the wood’s centre, as we often did, around The Big Tree: a mixed band of boys and girls cheering our champion on.
A soft breeze shivered the treetops. It seemed to whisper.
Confidently, the boy climbed, finding footholds by instinct, the branches a stair to a hidden room, while below, the others waited, faces upturned like flowers.
Up he went like a squirrel, quick-footed, not looking down, through a jigsaw of branches, soft leaves, fingers beckoning, bark, coarse skin and the tree itself, a beast breathing, aware of his coming.
Light in the treetops, bright as gold. Never grow up. Never grow old. 

Breeze through branches sang like a plucked harp; sunlight fell like a host of arrows on to the woodland floor and all the spider-web, foot-worn tracks converged on that tree at the wide world’s centre and at its foot we children, grown restive now, called out the boy’s name, our voices like small prayers rising.
In a wood grown suddenly colder, darker, birdsong ceased. We called out again and again but he did not answer.







No comments:

Post a Comment