I took my notebook and pencil in my pocket and scaled the back fence. My mother was at work down the road at the old people’s home and my father sat alone in front of the television. My sisters and brothers were scattered throughout their rooms.

A voice in my head called out to me,

‘You must find nature.’

I hankered to go out in someone’s car to the countryside, to be among the green hills, the trees and the sheep, but all I could manage was a long walk down Farm Road to the as yet built Farm Road Estate.

There was a point along the way where the concrete on the road stopped and the path was made of gravel. At that point I knew I could turn my back on the houses and streets filled with cars and people.

In front of me the skyline was dotted with Lombardy poplars and pines. Tall majestic trees that forced my eyes upwards to the clouds and the sky.

I was priming myself for the life of a poet.

On one side of Farm Road a cyclone fence protected passers by from the golf balls that flew overhead on the Cheltenham golf range. On the other side, a long line of dilapidated sheds gave off a stench of long dead chickens. These, too, I saw as a last line of humanity, after which the countryside, once row upon row of market gardens now abandoned in readiness for the housing estate, prevailed and I was free to find a spot, a tree against which I might rest, take out my notebook and with pencil in hand, write down my lofty thoughts.

The very act of writing down the words, inspired by the skyline, the lapping of leaves on top of the Lombardy poplars, the thought that they once came from Italy, their forebears a sign that the world outside was vast and immeasurable, and I became an important someone in this universe because I was a poet who could write down words in my notebook and the hours and hours of wasted time, spent during the summer holidays doing nothing but killing time would come to measure something of worth.

‘Hi,’ a voice called to me across the fence. A man in cap with a caddy and golf stick. He called through the wire, and I wondered, had he lost his ball?

My brothers sometimes came here, too. But not to write down beautiful words. My brothers came to crawl through the stubby grass on the edge of the road to look for stray golf balls that had somehow managed to get over the cyclone fence. They took them to the golf course manager at the clubrooms in the centre of the golf course where they could trade the balls for money.

I looked at this man and felt a flicker of annoyance. I did not want him here. I did not want anyone here. People interfered with the flow of my thoughts.

I was like Wordsworth, a man worthy of words. I was the creator of glorious scenes from nature and brought their beauty alive on the page.

‘What are you writing?’

Annoying question. None of his business. But I had been brought up well. Not so much that I did not speak to strangers but that I would offer something of my more polite self without interfering with my intentions.

‘Poetry,’ I said and turned back to my page by way of dismissal. Wordsworth never had to put up with interruptions like these.


The author as would-be poet.

‘The Second Worst Thing’

Normally I would not put up another post so close on the heels of the first, but a comment from my real and blogger friend Gretta has inspired me to put up two of Gretta’s poems from an anthology that Helen Annand published in 1998. The anthology is called
The second Worst Thing: Poems on Surviving the Death of a Child.

Gretta describes the poem she has already posted on Dustchange as her one poem on grieving. Perhaps she has forgotten these. I have not and never will.

I’m afraid I cannot format the text as it is laid out on the page in the original, but the words are as intended.

Birthday Song

Bobbing, bobbing
in my bed of tears.

I saw how they would be.
Smooth skin, knobbly wrists
jutting from cuffs
on long skinny arms.

He’s dead.
He’s grey ash in the garden.
No knobbly wrists?
No teenage wrists.
Skinny arms?
Never were…
Never will.


smother me in white clay
the cracked mud of mourning

stop up my ears
no clamouring silence
cover my eyes
no grey bundle of flesh
plug my nose
no sour yellow seepings
plaster my lips
no kisses lost on vacant skin

For Christopher who died at 8 months and Joel, at 4 months.