Girl with Yellow Wings (Poetry Monthly)
Thu, 14 Apr 2016
“And when I have come with happy heart
to sixty years and ten...I’ll bury my foolish books
and break my futile pen and seek a tranced
and tranquil isle that dreams eternally.”
“Beachcomber” Robert William Graves
The deckchairs incessantly flapped – red and blue flags flaunt a fresh, east wind, where an old man doggedly sits, wrapped in his coat made from best Harris tweed – flecked brown and green, blowing free. Each day he strolls to the sea, walking arm-in-arm with ghosts of the past, where he and his wife would rest for a while drink camomile tea from a thermos-flask. Smiles to himself as he sees a young girl – yellow water wings on, exploring the rock-pools, looking for treasures he’d often hunt for as a boy...barnacled crabs and delicious, black seaweed – went pop in one’s fingers. Then a kind of stabbing – shoots on up through his arm...through his jaw; a vice clamps his chest. He struggles to breathe. The pain subsides – rests his eyes, until... the girl with the water wings – knelt by his side. Are you alright, she enquires. Rude to stare, I know it is, but you seemed lonely. I can swim, and you can watch me, if you like – eyes, brimful of tomorrows. I’d be honoured, he replies, as with a grin, she gives him the wings. Don’t need these, not anymore. They’re yours, instead. After all, you are my new-found friend. Memories flooded back; don’t rush to grow up he ached to tell her, as he watched her chase the waves, recalling what his dad had said, Childhood’s a place, and not a time. Then, in a trice, she was lost from sight. With a gulp and a splutter, a playful wave had knocked her over, but she’d soon jumped up – as large as life. Out of the blue, that same, sharp pain – making him flinch. Swim! Swim for me! Breathless, he yells. You’re doing fine! Indeed you are, but come and get dry! a voice cries. It’s tea-time, very soon, only thank the nice gentleman - mind...The one – sleeps, and dreams – the one’s a boy, again...inside; runs to catch the sun before it’s swallowed by the tide. Brine laps warm on his ribs, sand – soft beneath his feet. A backward glance; the girl, a lone figure, presently, on the shore - the estuary taking the sea twixt thumb and finger, like someone feels for the quality of silk-satin. A dying light saturates the shallows, seeking out all the rainbow colours of the sky. Goodbye, little friend, and thank you, his words –snatched by an indifferent wind. Never did learn to swim, but you taught me to think high, to be splendid, to blaze, to believe, to fly...with or without wings; yellow, or otherwise.