I was often alone,
would run away from school, go home
where I was made to sit on a hard chair
in the middle of the room till school was over.
The secretary would come on her old bike.
A vision of grey and brown in Lisle stockings;
my mother at the door.
There was the long trip to Sweden.
A ferry from Harwich to Götenburg
thirty hours riding thirty foot waves,
the worst storm for thirty years.
I was eleven years old, travelling alone.
I can’t remember being frightened,
only the seasickness; that felt like dying.
The next year, alone, I was sent to Florence.
Thirty-six hours on a train from Victoria.
My Scout uniform with pioneer hat
a talisman to ward off the demons of fear.
The memory of seeing the valleys, rivers,
the mountains crossing from France to Italy,
still shocks me. No view has thrilled so much.
I don’t remember speaking to anyone,
just being alone enjoying the train, the view,
and Florence, its abundance, colours, sensuous girls.
Then a teenager in a short coat, round collar
wandering around Trafalgar Square feeling cool.
Sitting at the counter of Wheeler’s; Seagull’s eggs
taken from a bowl piled high and new exotic scampi,
tartar sauce, chips, well named Black Velvet;
half and half Guinness and Champagne then onto
Ronnie Scot’s a solitary beer and, perhaps, a cigarette.
There was the time I watched a girl sliding naked
down the mud on the banks of the Blackwater.
She was sixteen maybe seventeen, voluptuous, uninhibited.
All I could do, from across the water, was watch and listen,
become the mud glistening on her body as I sat alone
in the cockpit of Mignonette moored on the river
as the air became as black as the mud – and she went.
The smell of seaweed and crabs, burning oil
the slight light of the hurricane lamp,
sounds of the river-night were best enjoyed alone.
© Anthony Fisher August 2007