[This year is the 20th anniversary of Cape Cod Light by Michael Hattersley. The other parts of this series are here.]
Michael moved around a lot as a child and spent time in England, Germany and the US among other places. After the Korean War, his father’s army obligations stopped moving them around so much, my mother was born, and they eventually settled into suburban life in Connecticut.
The “army brat” life helped shape Michael, especially his relationship with his mother. He liked to tell a story about his strict German piano teacher, a professional musician indignant at having been reduced after the war to teaching American children scales.
The thirty-first poem in Cape Cod Light is Bournemouth, England, about his early childhood memories of living in his mother’s hometown during his itinerant period.
Small things open to the rain
With the grace of a child
Who doesn’t know his parents watch
And absorbs a playmate’s hand into his heart.
Then I had a tail, like my water bottle, Miss Tibby,
Whom I carried each night with a candle up the dark stairs.
Inside, I draped it over my arm
Delicately, something entrusted to me for a short time.
In the garden, it reminded me of my connection to the earth
As I walked more gravely down the stepping stones to the hedge.
It worked when I climbed the apple tree
And sat tightly bound to the branch like a wise beast.
The carnival of birds
Acknowledged our kinship and ignored me at the bath
As they scattered water with their wings, wanton.
These memories work powerfully as flying swans in my dreams.
The next poem is here.