Edging closer to heaven
To town, to life in little boxes, repertoire limited.
Although winter still draws towards its bitter end
neighbours, either side, across the road, mow lawns.
He senses condemnation of delinquent growth,
whine of whippersnippery a locust storm, accusatory.
Sixty years earlier a schoolboy surfs the train.
Slipstream blasts blond hair, passengers stare.
He edges along outside the carriages, confident.
hands, feet, grip, lines a glitter of speed below.
At his station he drops to the track, jogs off.
First week of spring he wheels his old mower out,
a machine Mad Max might have modified,
wearing shin guards for shrapnel shooting his way,
no catcher or shield for ground unkempt so long.
He imagines fingers touching curtains, faces in shadow.
The stationmaster sprints to catch him,
his rage more obscene than the boy’s finger.
Vanishing down large drainage pipes, the boy smokes
instead of attending school, bastardry in bedlam.
Cash, earned and stolen, will stake his escape.
Secateuring edges, prideful, he straightens in pain,
the years usurping the boy, giving him the finger.
He stoops again, prises fated weeds between pavers.
The tickytacky street theatre should laud him,
he mind-jokes, conformity better late than never.
The war over, monotony settling on us
in Twickenham, a long way from Jerusalem,
nothing fractured bar my attitude to churchgoing,
I breathe hassock-dust kneeling, rain clattering
against the church door, apostles looking down
in cloud-muted colours on poor sinners.
I have forgotten my raincoat again.
The vicar prays for our forgiveness,
eyes squeezed shut like other penitents’.
Restlessness dooms me to swerve from my mother’s
high, hopeless expectations of my salvation.
A blinding flash, theatrical thunder, enlightens St. Paul.
My knees hurt, body a map, bruises towns,
resentment as I ease the pain surreptitiously,
a sense of unfairness innate
as it is with most children.
Already a non-believer, I believe
my mother should attend instead of forcing me.
I fear the scourge of her wrath again over
my soaked best clothes, not eternal sin.
© Ian C. Smith