Freddy Is One

Freddy and me on the cobbles

Freddy and me on the cobbles

My grandson, Freddy, has just celebrated his first birthday. What an incredible addition to life he is!

Fear ate too much of my childhood soul. The following poem is built around my best wish for Freddy, and indeed all children. The first and last verses are in italics and represent me talking to Freddy. The verses in between are about my own childhood.

I Put Away Adultish Things


The larger part, greasy, meat-fibred, is mine –

 so here is my wishbone legacy:

I will for you a child-time with no fear.

Right now you are all miraculous warmth,

infinitely watchable, thoroughly edible –

but grow you must and grow you will,

still growing when my clogs go “POP!”

I will for you a child-time with no fear. 


“Don’t play near the old pit mouth”,

all innocent hawthorn tangle

hedged with single barbed wire strand

and invisible terrors of deep darkness:

instead, ride your bike up and down

coal gravel banks stitched together,

but only just, by tough tussocks,

“Hope this rain won’t Aberfan it!”


“Stand up stand up for Jesus!”

fish-mouth meaningless hymns

in sneak-kick sly-dig assemblies

and cold chapel soul freezings

among bible-browed Judges:

lie back and think of Jerusalem

while they install the guilt buttons,

atom-ingrained for the next life too.


“Shut up! Go and watch the television!”

Nuclear family mushroom clouds burst

into blind-light certainty of extinction,

death on any horizon though life is still new –

“What will YOU do in the four minute warning?”

Soak up the soporific soaps, opiate screen fix,

binary b/w westerns, cops ‘n robbers:

“There’s a black burglar on the landing!”


“Amo amas amat”…masturbo masturbas

masturbat masturbamus masturbatis

masturbant. Conjugate and decline.

If you wank in Latin will it stop you

going blind so you can still see glory

in the prizegivings on Speech Day?

“Stains on the sheets, on the PILLOWS!”

How will you ever be simple again?


“Clever.” They call you clever. Clever,

the cleverest insult ever devised, hurled

at you as you heart-pound run in real time

from bike-shed bike-chain swaddled fist,

and head-pound run in metaphor time

from the betrayal of becoming intelligent –

fear digs the best escape tunnels,

the ones that let you emerge beyond the wire.


 Next time I sit with you, beautiful little one,

I will inoculate you against such dread,

nourish you with confident courage,

make you SuperBaby, SuperChild –

I will amass and destroy the world’s kryptonite,

bodyguard you, heartguard you, spiritguard you.

Let me give you the bigger half of each wishbone,

or, better still, the whole pristine thing…