Taking my red hot threepenny bit, Mr Lowe in the chip shop
adorned my palm as I stood waiting, drawing patterns with his pen.
No such attention from Mr Price the cobbler when I called for
a hard, leather-scented brown paper parcel for my dad.
Chips or shoes, whatever I carried home, I could still motion
the pulling up of socks after every few steps.
We drew a marker pen smile on a cardboard box with cardboard feet,
three eyes and a Toblerone nose, my brother and I.
One day, fingers wrapped round a scaffolding pole in Newtown Lane,
my friend Janet swung and bashed her front teeth and they swung too.
In our front room, glowering at the piano I’d sit, stubborn fingers thrust
deeply into armpits for twice the requisite practice time.
My reasoning power was no better than my skipping – a wooden grip,
two skips with a rope and I’d trip, decide I can’t do it, go back in the warm.
Mom doing the washing up, the budgie perched on the rim of her specs,
peering in at her, tapping the glass, one day toppling into the bowl.
Slender fingers squeezing off the suds
and delicately rinsing the budgie under the tap.
In ’62 the Big Freeze slapped snow up the step, howled in the entry.
Was it my dad carved a tunnel of white, straddling the gutter?
Across our road, behind the Totney’s, I remember a wasteland,
puncturing my hand on nails and rushing the blood home to Mom,
always on call for accidents at the family cooperage next door,
ready to soothe, dab out the dirt and bandage wounds.
When the men had gone home, I sneaked up the yard into the works
to make pies with wood and shavings, sitting under the circular saw.
© Heather Wastie