Continuing my look back over ten years of blogging (and on a day when snow is falling over large parts of the UK), here is one of my own personal favourite poems from my 2011 poetry collection, “Old friend, learn to look behind you in the coffee queue.” This one was written in 2009.
On Snow Day, the Internet gets turned off.
We look up the frequency of local radio,
tune in for the first time in eighteen years,
attend to the list of schools shut, tut
at elderly listeners phoning to say a bit of snow
never stopped the world from turning in their time
(and your money was safe in banks back then, too).
We assess the road in thin light,
make our minds up, call in to work.
We await exclamations and hurried feet on the stairs.
Out in the street, the neighbours are talking, making out
like we actually know each other. “Did you hear
some guy drove into one of the holes they’re digging in the road?”
We spread the word; we head on down, passed by a rescue truck.
At the yellow tape we spend time discussing it with
our fellow strangers. There are
those who talk about the lost art of braking; others assert
it was a hole just waiting to be filled with something, and maybe
they should have thought about the forecast before digging it.
The boy watches the crane at work.
Just the other day, I was driving him back
from gymnastics when some idiot on the radio started
talking about hoof prints he used to press
for his son at Christmas, in the night.
Is it too much to ask for a little thought
of a Saturday afternoon? Do they just assume
no child in the land will be listening?
He’s not the only man in the world who’s noted
an extra use for the rim of a grande cappuccino mug.
Luckily, just then, a white van in the oncoming traffic
cut across me; I was able to cover up
the revelation with loud cursing,
tossed in a CD whilst I swore.
Even so, we avoided
looking in each other’s direction after that.
I got told last year it’s time I stopped
trying to prolong magic now, accept
that nine year olds don’t need to believe that
But today, on Snow Day, he declares
himself my personal plough,
instructs me to walk behind in the path he clears,
makes engine noises with his lips. Sings. We
roll a giant ball of snow together. He plays
until the light is nearly gone. We take
a night-time walk and look over fences,
complain about unused snow “going to waste”: there’s
a snowman in our garden who could use
some of that. We chat.
The Snow Day has blown open a closing
door, and I am grateful. Let me watch.
Let me look at him one more time like this,
as I always thought he would remain.