There was a wood. Before young rooks were flown
night cracked with their companionable cries,
trees leaned towards our beds. It was a house
we loved and kept a while, but could not own.
To there, one day, a boy came back from sea,
the Merchant Navy. He had lived, till eight,
in the old servants’ quarters. Between girls
and ships, he walked, then stood outside its gate.
He smoked. He wished, he said, to see the place.
The beeches breathed. I could not let him in.
We, too, had moved. I came back studying,
school, my excuse. I eyed his handsome face.
I think he gazed, then turned, and walked away.
I ran up the rough drive so I could see
if unseen mice had left more nibbled stones
in the dry darkness of the hollow tree.
What would I do now, if I, too, went back,
then stood before a child’s anxious face?
I know the yews were taken from that place,
berries like glossy mouths, leaves’ bitter black.
I would dig up those painted tiles we found
in ruined cottages, hid secretly
their tawny quince, split ruby pomegranates,
strange fruits a boy might carry home from sea.
If you have any comments on this poem, Alison Brackenbury
would be pleased to hear from you.