THE WALK TO THE PARADISE GARDENS
Bonfire Night beckoned us to the bridge
By Saint Hilda’s where we started down
Knostrop to chump but I trailed behind
With Margaret when it was late September
The song of summer ceased and fires in
Blackleaded grates began and we were
Hidden from the others by the bridge’s span.
When you bent I saw the buds of your breasts
As you meant and I laughed at your craft when
You blushed and denied and finally cried
But there was a smile in your eyes.
It was the season of yo-yo’s in yellow or
Pink or pillar-box red and you spooled out
The thread as only you could and it dipped
And rose like a dancer.
The paddock by the tusky sheds was cropped
And polished by the horses’ hooves, their
Nostrils flared and they bared their teeth
As we passed and tossed their manes as we
Shied from the rusty fence where peg-legged
We jumped the cracks and pulled away each
Dandelion head, “Pee-the-bed! Pee-the bed!”
Rubbing the yellow dust into each other’s
Cheeks and chins as we kissed.
The bluebells had died and on the other side
The nettle beds were filled with broken branches
White as bone, clouds were tags of wool, the
Night sky magenta sands with bands of gold
And bright stars beckoned and burned like
Ragged robins in a ditch and rich magnolias
In East End Park.
I am alone in the dark
Remembering Bonfire Night
Of nineteen-fifty four
When it was early dusk
Your hair was gold
As angels’ wings.
From the binyard in the backstreet we brought
The dry stored branches, broken staves under
The taunting stars and we have never left
That night or that place on the Hollows
The fire we built has never gone out and
The light in your eyes is bright:
We took the road by the river with a star
Map and dream sacks on our backs.
The Hollows stretched into darkness
The fire burned in the frost, sparks
Crackled and jumped and floated
Stars into the invisible night and
The log glowed red and the fire we
Fed has never died.
The catherine-wheel pinned to the palings
Hissed and spun as we ran passed the railings
Rattling our sticks until the stars had beat retreat.
From the night comes a figure
Into the firelight: Margaret Gardiner
My first, my only love, the violet pools
Of your eyes, your voice still calling,
“I am here, I am waiting.”
Where the road turns
Past St Hilda’s
By the Black Road
By the Red Road
And I remember you,
Margaret, in your
Mauve blazer standing
By the river, your
Worn-out flower patterned
Frock and black
Into the brewer’s yard
Stumbled the drayhorses
Armoured in leather
And clashing brass
Strident as Belshazzar’s
Feast, rich as yeast
On Auntie Nellie’s
Baking board, barrels
Banked on barrels
From the cooper’s yard.
Margaret, are you listening?
Are your eyes still distant
And dreaming? Can you hear
My voice in Eden?
My poems are all for you
The one who never knew
Silent and most generous
Muse, eternal primavera
Under the streetlamps
Of Leeds Nine.
Margaret, hold my hand
As we set out into the
Land of summers lost
A day-time ghost surrenders
At the top of the steps
To the Aire where we
Looked over the Hollows
Misted with memory and
Images of summer.
We are standing on the corner of Falmouth Place
We are standing by the steps to the Aire
We are standing outside the Maypole
Falling into Eden.
Falling into Eden is just a beginning
Hoardings on the gable ends for household
Soap, washing is out on the lines
Falmouth Street full of children playing,
Patrick Keown, Keith Ibbotson, the Flaherty
Twins spilling over the pavements, holding
A skipping rope, whirling and twirling;
Margaret you never missed a turn
While I could never make one, out before I began.