Castles are out of date,
The tide flows round the children’s tidy fancy…
—Louis McNiece

Summer at the seaside, Nineteen Sixty-Two
lifts me with chairoplanes and swinging boats,
rifle-range shots under quieter skies moving
at speeds that my eye can’t gauge. And I swim,
sufficiently removed from the backwash of sewers,
as my mother loves the chalet in which she reads
her books full of mystery and suspense. Weekends,
my father appears with his new, dropped voice.

I empty them by the bucketful, line up my towers
on the sands—a billionaire inside an hour, each grain
a penny in my pocket that I moisten the tip of my finger
to inspect before savouring a few licks from a cornet.
It can keep on going and it does, I can will it along
can shout yes to it but then it doesn’t, it isn’t listening
any more or it never was, it was really the sea shushing,
telling me it’s time to fasten my bag, head off to school.

I examine pavements, find the glyphics hard
to make out, expansions and contractions of cement,
weather stains, curious markings of frost and sun.
There was a change in her, and a change in him.
Each street I take, a step sees a coin roll into a drain
until I feel poorer and the temperature has dropped.
Then a winter lands that puts chains on our wheels,
deposits banks of snow made of finely-meshed flakes.

There were places I didn’t go into, didn’t want to.
There was salt entering the air, a different sunshine
so that gradually the snow started to unpack
and a pair of eyes were left on the slushy lawn—
two knobs of coal—with a carrot nibbled at the nose
pointing towards Saint Patrick’s Day and a clump
of shamrock. We hurried inside to fit ourselves out.
Otherwise, the parade would begin without us.