Beside the boundary hedge, before the
Fenced-off greenhouse and rows of cultured
Beds, there stood my cousin’s “tree house”, a
Little room on stilts of clean-cut timber
With two ladders for entry and a slide.
The slide, the part I always found most fun,
But was centre of attention when a splinter
Caught, sorely, in another cousin’s leg
As she stopped smiling midway down the slide,
The scene of the great drama on the day
A shot rabbit was resurrected and
Leapt into a dirty run, avoiding
The stew-pot and defying my uncle’s gun.
The rope ladder, the greatest challenge set
Before this child who formed a fear of heights,
Led to a trap-door underneath the room
That rose above the level of the house,
A bungalow before later conversion,
Where turf-fire and recipes with garlic
Left impressions that to this day still stand out.
There was the damp day when my cousin just
For fun put my favourite teddy out of reach
Between the branches of a garden tree,
And got me into trouble when I cried
And reacted by shouting loud bold names,
But also home-made ice cream from the freezer
Near bottles of home-made wine kept in the shed.
Then one year, without warning, came the sight
Of the garden without the tree-house in it,
But still I loved the thought of going there.
There was the chance to play rounders, three-on-
Three, with my cousin and younger brother,
Or to hunt rabbits in surrounding fields,
But refuse my only offer at a shot,
The same field where, at three or four years old,
My boots sank ’til I got stuck in the mud
And, left alone, I waited in the cold
Until my cousin’s warning reached my Mam,
And they came out to help me back indoors,
The same field where, at least ten years thereafter,
I swore I saw the lights of a U.F.O,
And then the year of the big barbecue
In memory of my late Grandfather,
Where it transpired that I’d become the tallest
Of all the men-folk on my mother’s side
When all of us lined up to pose for pictures,
Before somebody put some logs to fire
And the adults sang ’til that burned to cinder.
And the first time that I ever, without
Stopping, ran four solid miles beside my
Uncle along the road and across both
Grass and bog to gravel by the lake where
He went swimming and I tried to catch my
Breath, before we got picked up by car, driven
Back to a house that soon after was sold.