White Cloud


It always comes back to blossom, every year no matter what. And her road wound its way, like it did, up from their tiny home and turned left.

The colours started then, the froth and flutter like the taffeta scrunched around her, filling the back seat, like their petals filled the sky.

And turning right around the roundabout where she would take their unmade child, where school walks would be full of leaves and sticks, she saw her village on the right.

It ebbed away like her childhood, tucked safe inside her like the hidden garter on her leg and they drove on. At the junction trees came out to cheer her, smiled and waved in baby pink and candy whites as though they’d been grown just for this day, as though their only purpose was to shine.

And she sat and shimmered. Another roundabout and the hill eased down into her town, traffic lights held them while cherry flowers bobbed and frilled. Down and down, through the sap lined chorus, till a sharp left and squeeze of her hand. A chauffeur’s smile like the morning, as if he were the creatures in the branches turning their gaze towards the car, and calling out ‘look look, the blossom is out, watch her swirling now.’

And she sat. Two turns to go and moments folded round her, people scattered and petals burst, giddy, gleeful as though this was the first day to sing.

A route they’d travelled and planned with care through autumn leaves, but now every branch etched the sky just for her and every blossom swooped like swifts dived and murmured, like swathes of bird’s wings coming home.

Last turn right, until gates framed her, frills and fussing, with flowers in her arms. The tiny church path held her ivory feet and she came out in the blossom, like her day, like her trees, like her moment to stand out in the sun.

Leaves sparkled as she swept, soft pink, white scent before the hush. The cherry trees came out to hold her, to show her how to live. Bursting full, grabbing hours before they ease their colours to the ground.

Every fanciful floating petal was waiting just for her and she brushed towards him like a cherry tree in bloom.

In The Scent of Pine


She listened hard to the sparrow chirp outside her window and if she went deep down inside its beak, she would fall on the sweet sounds and they would propel her up, back out to an earlier day.

There on the notes of a different bird and a distant window, and there she would lie waiting for the day to unfold. And younger, thicker hair would grace her pillow and the old kitchen chair beside her bed, borrowed as a clothes rail would be covered in the bright clothes she used to wear. The leggings and silk shirts, half folded and waiting and there just to the right of her un-stretched womb was the red t-shirt ready for the day.

And sparrows called out from neat gardens, tended, they flitted past the bedroom window, a moment’s shadows where she lay. The candlewick bedspread, a well worn lime green, would be scrumpled at her feet and she’d get up, pull herself to standing, slight and small.

Birds cheeped loud as she smoothed her black waitscoat and somewhere else, unseen by her, somewhere two hours away, he pulled out his best jumper from the drawer.

Birds would have sung over his head as he climbed into the Orion and as they startled up into the air, he drove the distance between them.

Until. Her hand on the brass door handle and he appeared.

And quiet churchyards and pine trees waited and park benches came and went. And in her red t-shirt, in corners of restaurants, the huge salad bowls bought the evening. Till birds slept in trees, huddled and her mind buzzed with the hours, with his words.

The sparrow chirped outside her window and she came up and out, on its song, hung in the air, like its carefree notes and remembered when they were young.

Hunting

When days opened in the way they used to do, when she had written notes and hidden them, when clues were tucked in cupboards, and car boots, when she’d laboured over words and folded, when mornings opened full of silly ways, there would be smiles.

When days were full of treasure hunts, of simple gifts and cakes were iced and more books bought, always books, always.

Always.

When days opened in the way they used to do and she was right there and not here. When they opened to words inscribed, to squiggles from a small boy’s hand and days were sweeter than the things she baked.

When days opened in the way they used to do, when they were there, when they were young.

1999 – One More Gift

If she stared hard for a moment through her kitchen, past the kettle, to the wall, she would dissolve.

And as she breathed out she would see them, out for shopping in the dark. That after-Christmas-travel feel, that tired apprehension of the new and she wore red fleece. 

And she breathed out again, past her kettle to the tiles on the wall, the shadow under the cupboard formed a partition by the toaster and she dropped back. 

The carpark was lit up, late Christmas and busy people buying booze, but not herself. 
And she’d just pop next door first to the pharmacy, she’d catch him up, she said. 

The fittings have all gone now, the aisles and the shelves where she bent down, where she compared the products till she found one. 

And sometimes, even now when she’s in the supermarket by the clothes rails that extended into the place where she had knelt, she sees herself. She feels, she has no separation from that girl. 

And the heating throbs in the present, the radiator warms her where she stands but she’s not there. 

She’s crossing the carpark in tired ‘Christmas lights, and just later, she’s catching him up in the shop. He’s there putting new things in the trolley, treats for New Year’s Eve, though they’d be out.

She hurries up to join him and her hip rubs the inside of her jacket, on the right, where the packet in her pocket makes itself known to her. 

She feels how long her hair was, how dark and not like now and no one knew about the packet in her pocket but she did. 

And shopping would happen and trolleys filled and piled into the car. Then they’d be home. Taking bags in, rustling, planning and while he put the things away she crept upstairs.

And now. Even now. There are no moments in between that one and this and she is quivering and shaking and sees the handle on the door.

She seems to see everything as if for the first time, as if the minutiae of her world stopped by to say hello. To say ‘here we are, this is your life now,’ as if she’d woken from a dark place and now tiptoeing through to the end of the century, she was just coming home.

He was downstairs watching TV and somehow she wandered down their wooden stairs. They opened the shortbread a friend had given them and sat quiet, watching nonsense on the screen.

But she was sparkling on the inside and almost wondered if he could hear it, like a thousand tiny glass bells tinkling through her form. 

She stared out with no focus at the TV and one day later she would give him her perfect gift to end the year.

And now her kitchen lights shone down on her in her aging but she wasn’t there. She was sat next to him, she was shining.

Pen-Gull

It was that, right hand in pocket, kind of day, that finding a piece of the hill and holding it close, deep, tucked away in fluff, kind of day. And they didn’t know, they stood around her, next to her, powdered and small, her red fleece, a contrast to her mother-in-law’s brown coat and she was younger.

Younger than now and the piece of the hill held its secrets, kept her safe. They laughed and grinned into the bluster as they turned to face him by the car. The shutter froze them as the weather did, her hand to her left ear to keep the gusts out of her head, her longer, thicker hair out of her little elfin face.

The hill in her pocket, with them on either side of her, in front and behind and inside. They were with her then, when time was a thing that worked well and now, in the piece of the hill that sits tucked away with her treasures, in the small blue bag from her wedding day, the red fragments of rock at the bottom and they hold onto her tight, still, silent, unseen like the secret inside her back then and, like the hill in her pocket, the moment remains.

Always.

Building Blocks

We sat together in the dappled light at the back of the bus and I noticed him staring out. Did he see what we called the Spelling Hill, like I did? Did his eyes rest on the pavements that we walked for years? I saw the trees, I recognised them even now, their shapes and they punctuated our journeys long ago.

And then the road curved and the bus trundled its way into town. We drove over the subway I painted, over the bright colours from primary school and I stood there with him, proud and young and we were all there together back then. 

We rattled, his secondary school came up on the left and was gone. The slope up to the gates, the Home Straight he called it and it seemed so small, so close to home. How could it have seemed such a massive step? Yet it was, back then. 

And down the hill towards the top of town and past the hospital where I half look. And there’s the wall that I rushed past on that winter morning, coat flapping, heart pounding into the doors and the black caverns they contained.

Nineteen years ago I sat propped up in a bed, a bed-guard to my side so I could feed him where I lay and I held him but now we sit side by side in silence, a packaged-up toy at his feet. I’ll post it later. I had folded the bricks into tiny bags, with care, in colour order, I thanked them and went on my way. And now someone else I’ll never know will open the box soon and build, but not us, not with those toys.

The hospital fades and to my left I see the new builds, the expensive apartments and the cranes and steel. Their branding is loud, insistent and a huge sign comes into view, it says ‘Discover Your New Life.’ I focus on the words and pull each one into me, as though every letter was illuminated and then we pass.

The train station arrives and with it, the site of him marching off to college, to the right, under the bridge and away – but not today. Even that mass of buildings which I visited twice seems small and close, just here, in our town, by the station. Local.

We hold the parcelled-up toy between us, taking turns to lift it as he works the ticket machine and as I  pay and collect tickets for him. A pass the parcel game with no forfeits.

Outside at the front amongst the taxis and the rushing people, we pause, we stand huddled to check on what we’ve just done. One of the returns tickets is missing, so while he waits, holding onto the toy, I go back inside and resolve it. The ticket master is kind, he looks like a young Rob Brydon and everything feels alright. 

Back outside I notice a man to my left, and he wears my husband’s clothes, his head, with a similar angle and his stance. I find myself staring but pull myself away, back to our son but I am caught up. I am a tangled mess in a moment that didn’t happen, in a parallel time where my husband stood there helping us. And I reeled. I shattered on the inside as we moved away from him.

On the bus home and from my vantage point at the back, I note the heads, the strangers swaying as we turn up the hill, our son sat with the toy parcel, two seats away and to the right, there’s a soft, gentle tembling of a lady with Parkinson’s. I want to hold her. I want to get up and with no words, slip onto the the seat by her side. I want to hug her, to ease her till the shaking fades, but I can’t. I hold her with my eyes instead and wait for my stop. 
I will take the parcel from our son and while he makes his way back home, I’ll walk up to the Post Office and sign it over to someone else. 

We rounded the island, the out of date sunshine lit up the bus and strangers jiggled, most in silence, lost in their own worlds. I watched the back of our son’s head, I remember the curve of his skin behind his ear, I used to see it when I first fed him but not now. Now it’s covered in long hair and he looks out left. 

Behind me, in the very back seat, a tiny girl sings out, she is free, oblivious to others, and her voice fills the space. She is full of joy for her journey, she is out and ‘the wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round‘ she tells everyone. Some zone her out, others smile and I see how perfect it all is. 

Soon, sooner than she realises, she’ll be sat on a bus with her mother, with train tickets to University in her bag and they’ll prepare. It will be soon and though they know that they have years right now, it will disperse before their eyes, it will seep away and ripple out through time. Then they’ll be me, then they’ll be us, sat on a bus marking memory. 

I press the bell and the bus slows down, as I wobble, clutching the pole, I take the parcel from out son. His warm fingers let it slip from his grasp and now it’s mine. I step from the bus and glance up but I can’t see him, the light masks my view but he’s there somewhere heading home. At the Post Office while I pay, I think of the bricks and bits of plastic tucked inside, I think of our games and the things we created. I hand it over, it belongs to someone else now and as I leave, I lock eyes with a tethered red setter and I have that sense that even the animals know what I’m thinking. 

Nearing home I cut under the subway I painted, it shines out despite the years, despite the hours since we stood there grinning into the lens. And then I turn, left and right and almost back. At home, our son will have beaten me too it, he’ll be practicing keyboard, he’s got a concert coming up. I imagine him smaller, kneeling by a smaller keyboard, learning Jingle Bells and now he’s in the opposite corner on a piano, hair shoved behind his ears, fingers blurring and outside on the patio, my titanic rose has come into bloom. It reverberates with his rhythms and I quicken my step. 

In the pathways behind our home, the council have been out, they’ve mowed the grass. It makes my nose run, my eyes pool up. Remnants of its growth are everywhere, they carpet my route like confetti, in a celebration of movement and time.
We’re nearly ready and tomorrow our son will use the tickets we’ve just bought to head to University and as my feet push the pavement, my eyes start to run a  little more.

Wheels turn round and round, making complete revolutions and we are fine. We will be fine. We are fluid. We’ve got this. ❤️

Hush Little Baby, Don’t You Cry

And he was born, imagine that? He was born.

Out and up, into the world of senses where he felt and he saw and he heard. He moved. Limbs wriggled and grasped and neurones leapt and charged and pulsed. And his mind whirred like a great churning machine, like a creature that resonated with the knowledge it consumed and so he grew.

And he grew and expanded until the sphere of his world touched mine and we collided and we merged and we entwined.

And our lives that we lived sparked new life and he was born. And I glow, I reverberate to the beat of his heart. Out there now, seeing and feeling, hearing and moving, making his mark on his world. Neurones firing, ideas churning.

And I think and feel and hear a new born cry. He was born, dear God, he was born.

Without that breath, I would not be here, without his view of the world, I could not dance, without his perception of the world I would not think in these circles, in these layers. Without that life I would not be, I would not be here as I am.

And so his mother lived and she gave birth to him. And he was born and we met and we merged.

And I gave birth because of him, and we lived then and we live still, and we breathe and we thrive.

He was born, dear God, he was born. And on a bright day in March he appeared at my door and we smiled and I welcomed him in.

Quayside Keeps

Such a quiet bird, she thought and then a sky song spiralled out. And it sang as though it always had time for feathers, as though this was its home. And she saw herself, ship high and blown, above the docks on rising waves and it was here, next the creaking beasts up top and with blustered hair, that she grew. 

Here, that her sense of wings exploded to the seas, it was here and always would be. Down underneath its hulk, by the menshouts and leaden ropes there would be bicycle wheels. On pavements grey there would be spokes turning rubber, metal rubbing, gears changing and younger than her, his speckled legs would be pushing on the pedals that she couldn’t see. 

And there he was, escaped and expanded, exploring the docks by himself. Whiteout at his side, slabsteel towering high and he looked up. Painted letters sang out her name and he was there, adrenaline pumping, muscles aching, boundless and new on his bike.

And he grinned, up and up, to the top of ship, he squinted in the light, hair with a single curl at the front that zinged up like hope, like irrepressible joy and he was young. 

She looked down, wings nestling in her back, thin greying hair, a testament to travel and as grunts of men hauled ropes and chains released her, she swayed towards him. 

He paused on his bike, so young and persistent, with a button bright mind, sabatier sharp, the boy who took her hand across the years and from the quayside his story burbled into hers, in the churn and spume, in the chaos of waves, his eyes locked onto hers, always and he freed her. 

Wings ruffled bright, as her daysong followed the clouds, she saw him, and because of him  a boy on a bike, she flew.

 

A Rain Song Called Elegance

The rain moved in, like her eyes opening, like seeing the morning for the first time and it was welcomed, like that dawn, like the gratitude of the day, like eyes locked close and knowing, and it rained.

But it didn’t rain back then, it was quiet, warm, a thought nearing the end of summer and in the tail end of the season, the water rippled up the boats on the canal and their faces were reflected in its soft stroking waves.

And evening would have moved in, like it did, like it does, it drapes the coolness, the calm end of day, like an arm around her shoulder, like the footsteps by her side.

And evening drifted up, traffic sounds gave way to birds and she hitched up her skirts, like she did then, when white washed walls were unfamiliar, not the faded grain of now. And they sat.

Birds watched them then and she watches them from back here, folded in the now, in the smell of wet soil, the kiss of lavender scent and the certainty of August.

Time came with her, her companion on the way, tucked in the pocket of her skirt, vivid, like their moment, translucent, like the wings. And her wings beat out in the evening sky, strong, like the bonds that hold her, glorious, like their day.

August had returned and she could fly. A rainbow swaddled her garden and under its hue and shimmer, they were young. And under its song she was old but she had wings.

A Brief History of Us

In a park, somewhere in an old deep green and bristled wood, there was a car. It was an old car, corners had rust and the seats had seen better days but it still worked. And although the miles had built up on the clock, it still drove quite well, well enough to bring him to her door.

They sat in the car, her hair waving and him in the driving seat with his list of objectives and plans. They talked. They always talked and here in the car, near the car park at the swimming baths, they sat and talked about Stephen Hawking.

She didn’t have much time for scientists, not in those days and she listened to him chatter and enthuse. It all seemed so alien to her, so remote from her ways and her thoughts.

There in a park, far from where she was now, they would sit and think about knowledge, argue over the unknowable and as lunchtime turned towards afternoon, she promised to read the book.

A Brief History of Time became their bible and on distant settees far from his, she made notes and she frowned at the pages. And as weeks became months and strangeness seeped into familiarity, she found her way.

Planets crept into her soul and atomic mass with all its inherent uncertainty became the conversations of a Sunday night. How odd it seemed that she grew to follow his ways, his words and yet now, leaning up the kitchen cupboard, how strange it was that there could have been any other way than this one.

This was the way and they knew it at a cellular level, and certainty was woven into every interaction and every dream.

And years later their son was on his way home, top deck, front seat of a double decker. And the trees brushed past the glass that held him and his college bag was heavy with unseen words.

She thought back to first of the parks and his old car and all the talking. There seemed to be no passage of time between now and who they were back then.

Stephen Hawking had bent the fabric of their spacetime and they rolled into each other with a permanece that was unknown to them, back there, back then in the car.

In the now, the bus with their child came nearer and she thought of the worlds that had changed. And in an echo of the car wheels turning was their son playing out all the maths, their boy calculating and rejoicing in calculus and if he could, he’d have sat in the back of the car in the past and shown his parents the workings out. There, on his pure white page was the algebra to the split screen experiment and equations for Schrödinger’s cat.

In a park, in a car many light years away from here they all sat, together. And they were unaware of this day unfolding as they read, as they talked, as they laughed.