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Are We Going Home Yet?
April 2017

A poem about memories of 1950s childhood holidays, inspired by a poem read the previous month by John Foggin. The memories are all real (including the bus timetables!).

Read at the Puzzle Poets 5 June 2017

We stand, too close to the edge,
The tiny distant insect speck with wispy breath
Maps out the ley-line course
Determined long ago by Victorian visionaries,
And grows slowly, inexorably,
Into Thomas the Tank Engine in Dickensian grime
Showering the platform with his coal-fired halitosis.

The farmer's field, the prehistoric caravan, two-wheeled,
Tyres uninflated since World War II.
Long before Month Python's Yorkshiremen
We used to dream of living in a tin can...
For a week at least.

First day, mother rolls up her Daily Express
Ready to despatch summary justice
To wave upon wave of winged invaders
Come in their hordes to meet their waspy Waterloo.
O Death, where is thy sting now?

Can we go home tomorrow?

Second day, raindrops like dancing cats on a hot tin roof,
This roof a cold, cavernous diaphragm
Filling the void of dashed sunshine-hopes
With climatic amplification.
Other roofs fill their voids
With different sounds:
Unhappy families playing Happy Families.
My 9-year-old self plans bus timetables,
Routes of influence to conquer the world,
A humming, writhing, glowing network of busy-ness
Sketched across the map of south-east England.

Can we go home tomorrow?

Third day, the bracing breeze forces through the rusted cracks
The wafted essence of freshly-baked cowpats.
Shivering in single file
Across the malodorous moo-shit minefield,
Muttering through clenched teeth "beach or die"
(Fully expecting beach to be the less likely outcome),
We finally reach the Stygian cliffs of old sea defences,
Encrusted hearts of oak looming between breakwaters,
A green slimy carcase
Keeping frigid spring tides out and fragile summer bathers in;
No doubt an erstwhile Dads Army playground,
Now our very own sharply pebbled playground where feet scream
And the sands of time ran out long ago.

Can we go home tomorrow?

Sixth day, the yellowness comes not from the sallow skin
Of tin-can cave dwellers, not from the wasp-stained
Pages of the Daily Express...
It's the sun!!
We dance across the sweet-smelling cowsturd
Down to the breakwaters' heavenly gates
Over the magic, life-affirming pebbles,
Custodians of the planet's benificence,
And into the sea... still frigid but we don't give a cowpat.

Do we have to go home tomorrow?