It is 1965 in Ambleside, Saturday just after 9.
Fred’s bookshop is opening and they’re wiping tables
in the Central Café. Mist lifts off Wansfell
as half-heartedly as I wait
to catch a Ribble bus to Victoria.
And I will go all that September way
through cut hay and wheat fields, canals
still as steel, slow travellers who prefer
birds and fish and mooring at beer gardens
to watch the sun set.
I’ve never seen Lowry mills, thin streets
running like railings each time I look out
at the back to backs – a draft between,
shops closed down, windows barred,
doors paintless and yards
open to ginnels unsafe to walk alone. Space
is expensive – seats are full – air exhausted
by students, mothers with bored children,
business men sweating over creased newspapers
smelling of damp and coffee, thinking of what?
The man sits too close, snores on my shoulder, his skull
weighs heavier than a beck boulder, hurts more than a bruise
so I read notices and remember how, on the school bus
I mouthed the word capacity like cap-a-city
over and over under my breath until
I still couldn’t get it right. And Liz and Mike
snogging on the back seat, how dangerous that seemed.
Rain splatters the window, disjoints allotments, people
leaving work in the shadow of high-rise, pigeons
and sky – a distant fell grey.