Between the Generations

This poem is a very old one, written about my son when he was 7 (he is now 23). He used to love watching the hay being cut and baled in the fields below our house, and was taken under the wing of the owner of the fields who offered him a ride on the tractor. My son was too shy to accept! I include the poem now because I was looking for one which felt right for this time of year – and of course it brings back some wonderful memories…

Between the generations there is an old bathtub
upturned to form a seat of kinds
warmed by sun and bottoms three.
One, two, three
in a row
deep in contemplation of the age.

This seat affords a view unrivalled by benches marked ‘in memory of -’.
Framed by a blue sky,
dusty air rising above the purr of the tractor as it cuts its way
below the watching three
trailing clouds of stalk and stem,
buttercup and marguerite,
cranesbill, campion, vetch.
Better entertainment far than Coronation Street.

On the left: boiler-suited Luke, plumber by trade, owner of these fields.
Farmer, too, by dint of history and a family name
that rolled off tongues the same
three hundred years ago as now.
Time-warped fields – five, six in number –
hedged by memories laced with hawthorn and elder
woven with the passing of the years.

And here is Fred, eighty if he’s a day, chewing the cud with the cows,
mulling over the wisdoms of silent intercourse
that fold the day in
and send time into tread-water stillness
marked only by the bluebottle buzz of the grasses at his feet.

Between these two, you: my golden child,
harvest of my womb and grown
seven going on seventy.
Conversing deep, in your little coven of three, on things of import:
hay, and tractors, and the best bailing twine.

© Anne de Gruchy


Channel Crossing

Above decks the blue sky cries seagulls
and a dragged pull of cirrus cloud.
Children against the railings
hauled back by parents:
‘Can we go for chips, mum?’
The ferry heaving under,
bulging a cargo of fruit machines, TV lounges
and cheap french wine.

Below decks it is quiet with the stink of petrol.
Stephan shifts
feels the push of Jolanta’s foot against his thigh.

Fourth run today.
The captain, thinking about home, wonders what’s for tea
and will he be back in time for the match?
They could do with a washout, his team,
that or a miracle.
They never should have sold their striker to United.

The lorry is hot, sealed against curious eyes,
lettering on the side advertising a supermarket chain.
The swell of the sea
shifting bodies against each other in the cramped space.

A prayer comes to Stephan
a meditation.
He speaks it silently to himself, careful of the precious supply of air.
He thinks of the dress he will buy Jolanta
of the children they will have.

‘I feel sick, mum.’
‘Go to the toilet, then. I told you not to have them chips.’
The ferry heaving
the sky blue above
the hold airless, petrol-laden, bumper to bumper full.

when Stephan comes to me at the refugee centre,
the only thing he can remember about the boat
is the moment that Jolanta’s foot
stopped moving against his thigh.

© Anne de Gruchy


Baby Blues

This morning I heard you singing in the dawn,
imagined milky breath on red-raw nipple
his greedy mouth devouring you, eyes creased
crinkled as our sheets in the days when we used to make love.

Your voice swerved, pitched and plundered
a lullaby repertoire of hand-me-down secrets
each note staking claim to the divinity of motherhood.
My wife and child, swaddled in a halo of electric light
that edged me out beneath the bedroom door.

The notes rose, suckling the air. I pictured him
pink with the pleasure of your breast, intent on a conquest
already made, even as he had swelled, ripening,
moulding your body into his image under my hand.

The melody faded. Your footsteps padded to his cot
pausing in their journey back to our bed.
I sensed the betrayal of your kiss on his forehead
and wondered why no-one had told me
the truth about the baby blues.

© Anne de Gruchy