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Winter trees

Peter Walker

in the long years of play & growing
& picking mushrooms in Marl Woods
history passed us by

just the khaki shadow of my father
as he spent his leave in beer & baby-making

the sharp taste of salt licked from my fingers
as the vinegar soaks the Daily Post
& Monty's victory at el Alamein

the crumps & flashes to the north
over Birkenhead & Liverpool
like fireworks as far away as Mars

& then
as we skipped away from school
on a cold February afternoon
a loud curse of metal
like a cow in Emyr's slaughterhouse
& a mad rush of birds in panic
clouding the sun with our childhood fears & prayers
& silence

only the red fruit
hanging from the bony branches
& the smell of burning pine
that even now fills me with little sparks of tears

five souls floated down like sycamore seeds
to land where poppies grow
& children ask to find the stories behind
the names & learn that sometimes
freedom knocks at the door of our hearts
with a heavy, heavy hand.


Peter Walker