That day you strayed too far away

From the thrum of hum-drum adult conversation-

Your parents’ polite patter in the porch

Of grown ups unknown to you;

Eight and uncaring; still above the need

For nonsensical niceties.

No offspring there to share the wild dark

Of your eyes and heart,

that’s only felt by those still ringed

By the magical newness of being,

Or the ones outside the grey box of orthodox

Adulthood; the crazy square-pegs, distant-gazers.

The side lane was alluring; exotically porticoed

With broken pallets and scuffed budleia;

A few tentative steps and a glance at the elders

Enrapt in the ebb and flow of grown up code

And you slipped into sudden silence, tucked between fences.

The grey line of sky bent with your over-loud steps

Among dusty weeds and muffled scrape

Of faded plastic wrappers

Husking past as you slipped unwitting,

Further into the waiting worm hole winding between

The planks and bricks of urban blandness.

On. And on.

The sky lid darkened a shade over the fence walls,

Higher now, marked with symbols. No time though

To attend to the sudden shadow

Under your springing heartbeat, for ahead,

At the bend, a long-limbed boy comes grinning,

His neck oddly bent.

“Hallo, I’m Alfie.”

Later your freckled smile bedecked the front pages.

And as her ancient hand clutched the days-old local Echo

Shared by all residents-most now uncomprehending

Of the black and white rustler they used to shuffle

On morning buses, or curled with a cuppa

under long-lost covers- she cried out.

More like a croak from her creaking throat

She called “Alfie, how could you? Oh lonely boy!”

Two tears dropped side by side onto your face,

Already consigned by  the reporter’s neat lines,

Weighted by the right pathos for a lost child story,

To the realm of the dead.

“He had been there so long on his own I suppose,”

She turned to the nurse; capable, concerned.

Agnes let herself be patted, pillows plumped round her,

Closed her eyes and remembered her lively big brother,

Lost when he wandered alone down a lane.


~Polly Oliver (2016)

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4 thoughts on “Lonely lane- a ghost story

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