A lot of my work is an attempt I think to remember. When one gets to a certain age memories of childhood become a little surreal. At least mine are.
I don’t remember any of my birthdays from when I was a child, for instance. I don’t think I had a birthday party ever. Not that I ever particularly wanted one. I had cards and presents, and probably a special supper. Christmases are clearer.
Now, when I recall things, I write them down.
Many of my recollections are a touch surreal such as the Christmas – I was about ten years old – when I opened a present from my Auntie Marlene. It was very oddly shaped, and could have been – but clearly wasn’t as was evident from the surreptitious squeezes I gave it – a small spade.
I was a little stunned to discover that it was in fact a lifesized plastic macaw affixed to a perch which comprised of a black bar and a spiralled golden arch by which one could hang the parrot up from some handy hook or nail.
‘I didn’t know what else to get you,’ she said.
The surprising thing about this story is that I was delighted with it. As far as I recall I hung it from a screw that my father put in a ceiling joist.
It’s no wonder my mother worried about me in hindsight. She needn’t have. I was rational, which is more than I can say for most of my extended family.
I’m now wondering what ever happened to that parrot, and whether I gave it a name. This is important to me for reasons that squawk at me with no words.
There’s seagulls wheeling, screaming to be fed,
a squall that dredges pictures from the deep;
Dandy annuals, sand and candyfloss,
flapping with postcard wings in my head.
My grandmother’s dead now. They’re sent she said
when there’s a storm at sea, and yet they stay,
heckling overhead. No sign of going away.
Their surprise tide of cries wracks at the mind’s shore
where all my past sandcastles are undone
into the sea with deckchairs, donkey-rides
and the pier, as thunder clacks at the door.
They squat on the park grass like conductors.
Ink runs from their eyes into new meanings.
Their wings are postmarked, feathered into blur.