Who would have guessed that a small tree
could be so vicious. All day you had kicked
the new football back and forth against
the gable of the red brick terrace and
not even the promise of ice cream could
coax you away, until the Blackthorn spoilt the game.
That’s when you ran back, holding the thing
with your thumb pressed white against its skin.
You begged me for some gaffa tape or a
party trick that would stop its very existence
disappearing. The air leaking through the
thorn sized piercing and the leather
becoming loose fitting and worn. Stars with
names of champions began to crumple
as though a new black hole was melting them,
slowly destroying them. We searched through cupboards
and kitchen drawers and made a detour to the cellar head
but found nothing that could stop the flow.
You wanted to shout at it but that’s when your
voice broke so instead I took the ball from your hand
and guided you back outside, back out onto
the street. At first we could aim it at least twenty
yards but as the air filtered out with every pass the
distance between us vanished as though we were
kites hauling each other back. In minutes we
stood only inches apart. Shattered, you
picked the thing up, now lifeless and together we held it.
‘Let it go,’ I whispered. And as one
we launched it, as though it deserved it, high into
treetops where it rattled like a pinball before
flinging itself out into the broken sky. Onwards it raced
dodging a V shaped migration before bursting through
clouds and somersaulting past an aeroplane on final
manoeuvres. We shaded our eyes and watched the
thing, now magnificent, circle and soar, and silently
we traced its journey with our hands held high.
It skirted the atmosphere, following satellites
as though trapped beneath ice, eclipsing the sun
to momentarily send our world into shadow
before it charged through to a solar system
where, free from gravity it pulled away,
becoming a giant before exploding
and sending a million stars scattering.
How it came to be in the park, no one would ever know.
The punctured years had loosened its shape
and dirtied its coat. The stars were gone.
Between the bandstand and Samuel Laycock
it had readied itself for a new life; challenging
the middle classes to team building tasks
whilst sometimes practising dental hygiene
for stray dogs. Once it was the weapon of choice
for the group of lads that thought it would be
fun to try to knock an old man down.
In quieter times it would sit by the swings
or out of sight beneath the trees. At night it liked to dip its toes
into pools of water collected by the bowling green.
There it watched passersby and occasionally it would glimpse
someone it recognised, but too many years had passed
it by to now say anything worthwhile.