Young Animals

It was the House of the Rising Sun. That summer.
’64. We turned our backs on town,
at Rickney Farm the Pevensey levels radiated
water to the sea – such opportunities for boys.

A barn, and hay, and no adult to be found.
Jones tuned his sister’s radio to Caroline. I’d never
heard such moonshine sound, so far from Sunday
dinners, Billy Cotton, Ray’s a Laugh.

At first, we built our fortresses for tanks and planes,
then, though I couldn’t swim, cruised down
wide ditches in the farm canoe. The Panasonic
in its leather case came too – and played the future

underneath the canvas waterline. On such cruises
of discovery did we find the subjects of these dreams –
three girls. Like us, fourteen, and sent. I held
the bow, and David, grinning, got them in.

Old hands in love, we showed them how to paddle,
our landing place the cattle used, the stinking
milk-eyed pike we’d dredged from weeds and thrown
onto the bank. They laughed. We knew sophisticated things.

My mother read the letter from one later on
and showed me, scandalised. We all should meet,
it said, on Sunday afternoon – the pictures
in their town. It was another world

to come, and seeing it my mother raged.
The letter disappeared. Impossible to reach,
We never went and David never knew.
Soon after that the winter came, a birthday,

and I nearly got my way. A radio
to find those pirate feelings on. All they could
afford, it never worked, except to find
the Home on, on a Sunday afternoon.

Eastbourne
August 1993
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