I remember us brothers with pots
for helmets, and sticks for swords.
We were the soldiers of Youth
and we marched in matching t-shirts
never short of colour and craziness.
I remember our dog (our lion),
who owned us as much as we him;
he was naturally part of our playtime.
His name was Skip, it still is.
He was the loyal and lazy white housedog,
And he followed us everywhere.
I remember our canal-raft built up
over tiresome hours (not by us kids,
of course; we just watched and waited),
of scrap wood and abundant
empty milk cartons so it would float.
I remember it working for a while;
before slowly sinking. We all got wet, Skip too,
writhing, with smiles, around in the cold canal,
darting for the shore, in order that
we didn’t have any scaly sorts of things
brushing past our skinny little legs.
I remember the secret garden,
the green crown at the top of the field,
its one entrance/exit, dark and gloomy.
I remember how when the slivers of sunlight
squeezed easily through the cracks in the canopy
you’d never of thought the day would end.
I remember making jumps from whatever
lay around – signs, boards, and mounds –
for our bikes big and beastly back then.
Rubbing little wounds with grubby hands,
colourful plasters; Mum’s unnecessarily
dramatic care there to take for granted.
Mum didn’t tend to our Skip; we did that.
I remember the neighbouring tennis court,
how we’d play tennis our own way:
Smacking balls as hard as we could, so good
that we’d be unable to find any of them again.
They’re probably still there, shifted slightly
but still sitting sunk in wet or dry, sun or rain,
among the long grass and the shrubs,
or in the woods at the foot of the house.
Yeah, I can see them sitting there still,
planted peacefully, part of a myriad
of memories: mountains we conquered with ease.
I remember the piercing cold of Saturdays –
Football-club day – with friends, and the
frozen floor so rough on our scrawny knees –
on the commons the fog was immense,
and we just added to it with our foggy breaths.
Skip was of course there, panting, being patted,
on the sidelines by anyone and everyone.
He had a powerful breath, all of ours put together.
We could overlook the valley so vast to
those eyes, still these eyes, and blow with a breath
a warm breeze that looked like it might freeze
the village down below, our little homes –
We could coolly overlook that chilly sight
with as much wonder, perhaps, as when the sun
skipped over the clouds like soft stepping-stones,
shedding a limelight over the patches of pasture.
I remember the newly built tree house.
I remember how building it took ages,
them all up there putting nails and things in,
never one wasted or put out of place,
us just watching them again, excited again.
I remember its scrap-carpet that used to be
in our living room, its one brittle plastic window,
its little wall-light you’d push on and off,
and the thin board for the sliding door
that we got from the secret garden.
Skip found it; we found it.
It can still be opened. It might be hard to find
but it can always be opened.