If his Boots Could Talk
If his boots could talk, they would speak of rough ground, of the battlefields of France long journeys across unknown lands, knee deep in dirty rivers of worn souls beneath shiny black leather, thick hides encasing swollen feet
If his boot could talk they would speak of hard winters, nothing but grey smothered air, Of rationed meat and bread and the blank open pages of diaries, Mud thick and furrowed, peppered with ammunition shells, Of men falling like leaves on the battlefields.
If his boots could talk they would speak of the quiet moments waiting for the cry, of that look passed between men of shared fate. Strangers dirtied, bloodied hands fumbling in the darkness, ears strained by the squeal of bombs overhead and the intermittent clacking of gunfire.
If his boots could talk, they would tell of those final moments in the dawn, when the sun rose over the channel and he thought of home. The death of one man and the birth of another.
If his boots could talk they would speak of his courage Of his giving his life for us.
Published in The Western Telegraph (Nov 2009, nov 2010) and Italian Star magazine (Nov 2010).
I wrote the following poem, after meeting my nephew for the first time in November 2008.
I travel through countryside to greet you, Over hills and rivers that divide us Sink into an unknown world, of farming past Tractors and trailers hauling livestock and hay stacked like squares of string, I make slow progress As the lazy sun turns her face towards me.
Late afternoon I turn the car off the road, creep up the winding path past the church. Cross held high in the naked January air A clear cry of Christianity to all around In the quiet cul de sac, dark figures appear from the yawning mouths of buses, streaming school bags behind them like burdens.
Outside in the cold air I stoop and look through the window, And I see you, small body wriggling, arms looping the air around you I come into your jungle, appear amid the tall trees and giraffe Plant a kiss on your soft, milk skin, tickle your baby grow tummy And as your small pink lips turn into a smile, the world falls away there is only you and I and the jungle around us.
Later I watch you together, your long body hooked into the crook of her arm like a crescent moon, soft eyelids closed, flawless pale skin touched by the soft red hue of an artists brush. She whispers softly words that only exist between the two of you, As she rocks you gently from side to side in the fading sunlight.
I play with your toys and sing to you, while they prepare dinner When you cry, your pale skin turning red, small veins straining at your temple, I pick you up and hold you close, feel your breathing slow in my ear, as your honey brown eyes stare over my shoulder into distant fields. Together we dance across the room and back, until your head falls heavily onto my shoulder in defeat.
In the night I hear you cry, then the soft footsteps of your mummy moving through the house. I imagine you suckling onto her breast drawing her milk, as the dawn approaches. And I feel proud of who she has become, of her love for you of my love for the both of you.
Sometimes it creeps up on me,
Like the biting wind on a January day,
Like the clinking of a sail boat’s masts,
shackled ghosts on water.
It’s there in the lines on your face,
Growing deeper with the seasons,
Like tracks in fresh snow,
In the ache in your joints, in the
Warmth of your sigh.
An invisible force, pulling at your cheekbones,
painting the irises of your eyes, like dirty dishwater.
Folding the skin of your hands, like creases in fresh
People smile and say I look like you,
And I feel proud to say I’m yours.
While you are sorry you look like her.
I don’t tell you, you speak her words.
I miss you,
I miss the you that was,
The you and I that was,
The time that slipped away so quickly,
Spinning like sand through our fingers.