Yesterday I saw a slinky in the sky. I was walking along the seafront and got stuck behind a load of pram pushers. It wasn’t even a nice afternoon, and I thought this was an autumn thing, the starlings. When did winter happen?

I looked up at the mass of birds, dancing, but with more than wings. The swooping and swirling touched even me. Synchronicity sang, made shapes that swelled or shrank, and edges so exact. How do they communicate?

Somehow, all those starlings knew they must move into the shape of a long thin tube. Who said slinky to them? The tube expanded, lengthwise and then contracted. What do they know of toys, of rings, metal connected rings that can walk down stairs when a little boy starts them off right? Metal rings get tangled when a little boy doesn’t play right. What do starlings know of little boys?

How many pram pushers looked up in the sky and saw slinkys? Did other mothers watch starlings move into shapes of toys? I saw starlings, slinkys, and then khaki boys dropping from helicopters into Hell. Does Helmand Province even have starlings?

I remember a small boy. Mine. Still see him lying in his pram. Then crawling, rising up and walking, all the time growing to run, climb, fall, rise. He swims! Even underwater, moving like a fish, but breath held, tight.

In time he’s tall, strong, handsome and diving off the high board. He springs, somersaults, running rings through the air, he pauses, hangs on to that air by a thread, then down. His body slinks into the water.

Now. In dark glasses, he’s Khaki Boy.

A profile picture.



Don’t get tangled.