Summer was once ices poles and living
on bikes; we were free like swifts
screaming circles in the air. Greens
were for football and teams twenty a side,
roads for playing cricket, where cars
were stalling aberrations. We lay
on lawns watching clouds, minds unfettered
in those zenith blues; guilt
and care belonged to
some other world and school
might well have been
beyond the moon.
Only later came guitars with boys’ awakenings;
sunbathing in the yard, or the shock
of full moons rising late in the day. We really
thought we had credence, like southern
Skynyrd boys, singing in that
sultry heat with school coming at us
like banks of cloud, the football season
begun and cricket nearing its end,
watching shadows gathering
where the sun once shone
To this day I don’t know for sure
who you were.
You sounded American
and dressed like a Californian,
or that’s how it seemed
to my parochial mind.
I wasn’t used to your friendliness,
being spoken to so kindly
by a complete stranger,
but then, that was the thing —
I felt I knew you.
Why didn’t I ask your name?
The event had brought us together.
Now we waited for the train
to take us back through Cumbria’s
rounded hills, always threatened by rain.
And true to form, despite it being July,
we found ourselves sheltering
in a little cafe, sipping bad coffee
made more palatable with cream.
That’s where I saw you surfing
in my mind’s eye,
feeling that smelting sun sink
beyond an ocean of glass.
We had just enough time
to assess our few days
in the company of a Buddha.
At least that’s what we said, if I recall,
and that we, too, might be Bodhisattvas!
And who’s to say we weren’t right?
Even now, when I play that album,
I keep looking at the picture
of the kind-looking man, all smiles,
with the sweet and beaten guitar.
He still looks an awful lot like you