Glory days

To think that once
We’d gather while the saner world
With its small ways
And dull, diminished dreams
Slept on

And roll out

Knowing we’d be gone
Till those same silent streets
Smouldered gold in a hickory reek
And weary shadows yawned and stretched
Into encroaching dusk;

Returning

Cheeks and bellies hollowed out,
Legs freighted with a double metric tonne
Of England’s lanes and hills;

Unconscious of our glory
Complacent in our strength
And never yet supposing

That our one day’s ride
Would turn in time
Into a weekend’s work;

That knees and hips would find their voice
And raise a chorus of complaint
With backs and shoulders

And all our talk
Would be of what had been.

A different road
Through distant days.

 
 

When I was 15, Bruce Springsteen’s anthem Glory Days was just a great song. It still is, of course; but 30-some years on, I feel as though I’m in it. My friend Mike wasn’t (as far as I know) ‘a big baseball player’ but he was a fine bike-rider, and a great companion on the road. Looking back, I can’t quite believe we put in some of the miles and days we did. Couldn’t do it now, but wouldn’t have missed it for the world. N.

Baggage

These bags
I’ve packed
Beneath my eyes
Are just my carry-on;

My real freight
Is checked and stowed:
The baggage that I do not need
But cannot seem to live without;

A steamer-trunk of wasted years
A rain-stained tote of lost ideas
A locked briefcase of secret schemes
A Samsonite of fragile dreams.

It’s unimportant where I go
How frequently or far I fly,
How carelessly I label them
Or hope they tumble from the sky:

Each day I’m at the carousel
To find that every single piece
Has made it with me, safe and well.
A reclaim that brings no release.

Teen spirit

I envy them their energy
Insouciance and ignorance
Ability to stay up late
And lie in later;
I covet their unclouded eyes
Their narrow waists
And knees that don’t complain
On autumn mornings.
But most of all I’m jealous of
Their hair:
Thick and lustrous
As the new spring grass,
With scope to sculpt, the heft to gel and flick,
Strong and shining
Packed full of pro-B vitamins and promise.
While I
Submit meekly to the clippers
And an undebated scalping,
All thought of style,
Like the substance,
Long lost and brushed away.

 
 

Youth. Truly wasted on the young. N.

More cinquains

What fools
We were to think
The First would be the last:
Now April’s lunacy lives on
In May.

The flag
Will lose its blue
And then the red will fade
Till all we’ll have to hoist will be
The white.

Perhaps
When all of this
Is done we will look back
And say that it was right, and good.
Some hope.

Come back
You Viking hordes,
Dread knights of Normandy:
Your swords would wound less deeply than
These cuts.

So. Now
A Grendel stalks
Our land. Come, Beowulf:
Rise from the page and save us from
Ourselves.

With local elections this Thursday, and the hideous spectre of next month’s general election haunting the nation, I decided to cheer myself up with another round of cinquains, aimed at what now passes for democracy in these isles. Pleased to report that I’m feeling much better. As Sir Thomas More astutely noted: ‘The devil…that proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.’ N.