We bowled the letter ‘o’ straight
after a long run up, mid-paced,
no nonsense with a good line and
length and not much turn or deception.
We hated the way out of towners,
bowled Yorkers, brutal, with no bounce;
their game seemed unsophisticated
compared to ours: guileless, obvious.
Later, living down south my
bowling style changed without me
realising it. Sometimes I noticed
myself bowling flashy spinners
after a short run up, fingering
the seam, getting the ‘o’ to twist
in the air and turn as it hit the ground,
making them guess.
And the northern kid in me
didn’t like it, didn’t trust it,
found it affected, effeminate, arty,
said: “Who are you trying to impress?”
Projected on the wall of a builders’ yard
opposite your childhood home:
Indian musicians, strumming sitars,
held between knees, tapping tablas,
women in saris and salwars
swaying and dancing like leaves as winds gust
and rains run in gutters, a waterfall
turning the street to a sea.
You wake, standing in pyjamas
in the darkness of the landing
where your parents are sleepers
and scream at their door
as though it were a lighthouse
and they were its keepers.
Straining at the leash of handbrakes,
our cars panting at lights outside Parliament,
then squealing round corners like pigs being
driven to market over Westminster Bridge,
imagining that if we can only escape
to our country retreats we will hear
what God is saying to us, learn the language
of tongues not our own and speak to our ancestors;
but the dead have taken a vow of silence
like medieval monks in Westminster Abbey
eating porage, avoiding eye contact,
festering under ill-usage and poverty,
while outside birds sing, leaves rustle
and the wind speaks to those who will listen.
Born in 1959, Michael Dunne grew up in Ireland and Manchester.
He came to London in 1982 and was contracted as a songwriter with MCA Records.
He moved into secondary school teaching in 1986. He started writing poetry
in his 20s. He also writes short stories and is currently working on his first
novel. He became involved with creative writing courses at Birkbeck College
five years ago and finished a two-year certificate in creative writing there
last summer. He is currently a part-time student on the Creative and Life Writing
MA at Goldsmiths and is aiming to be published and teach creative writing in
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