In an overcast West Midlands town,
not quite on the edge, Adam searches
for that place beneath the stars
where he was conceived.
Along the high street's punched-in cafes,
past the broken glass shards outside
the Saturday morning discount store
he inhales grime, curls into himself,
watches cars bark and snarl along
unforgiving pot-holed roads. Hard-baked
messengers of life walk towards him, walk
towards who-knows-what-or-when -
Adam stops one and asks for directions.
His father, drifting again in the care home
chair, said a tennis court marked
the spot - his ruddy seed sown beneath
the gnarled bower of an ancient oak.
"On a warm summer's eve in 1953,
I copped off with yer mother and she begat thee."
But who can believe anything
the old man says these days, his mind
awash with uncertainty, death,confusion,
and lies ? No tennis court now,
Adam's told - paved over years ago;
converted into a row of pawn-shops,
charity stops, and cheque-cashing booths.
No oak to explore - no scuffed parchment
of hallowed grass where his parents once lay.
The sky clouds over. It begins to rain.
"Get thee home", says a harsh inner voice,
not his own, "and don't come back
here any other day."
Adam stiffens the collar of his mac,
shelters in the doorway of
Gerald T. Haynes and Son, family butchers,
rubs his gleaning eyes.
As his father marked his own conjunction,
so Adam now marks his - looks up at the
busted-flush-of-a-sky for ablution, piety,
perhaps both. A tender act -
the tenderest - once took place here,
of that he's sure. And in this life
nothing falls harder than a secret shared:
his own mysterious, unknowable truth.