I don’t often write poetry, but earlier this year I attended a workshop led by the very talented and lovely Aoife Mannix and was ‘encouraged’ (downright tricked actually) into having a go. Some of the work created at the various workshops held as part of Aoife’s writer in residency at Portsmouth Museum were included in an anthology.
Mine was one of those selected and on Friday evening I, very bravely I thought, read it out to a group of around eighty people who’d come to the launch of the anthology. The poem was inspired by the plaque for the Portsmouth swimming and medical baths commemorating its opening in March 1939.
A sense of time passing
Coconutty suntan lotion applied hit and miss
and candyfloss sweet lipsalve kisses
splash over the chlorine and Germoline for scraped shins.
Ice cream drips off chins
It’s not quite washed away as they pass this way
and plan the salads for the diets they’ll follow
Soaring up, echoing about are the shouts and squeals of children
released for summer. Rushing, in
ready to swim, they don’t hear the fainter waves.
Those made by grandfathers, great grandfathers.
‘We’ll be back soon,’ the promises as they were swept to war.
Many meant. Not so many kept.
Too many unknowingly lied
The water grew cold back then. Flavoured with sorrow and tears.
A metallic tang from the guns and the bombs and
bullets and shells. Hopes were melted and
park railings smelted for medals as thanks.
But the sun shines now on the young and carefree.
Fears and fighting are in the past.
At last the children race, length after length.
They have health and strength and a future.
They laugh and call and have a ball. It’s noisy this peace.
It bouys them up, like chlorined water. Keeps them safe.
As they scrape their shins and steal kisses and away from class,
taking a chance. Living the lives they’ve been given.