Walking Through

1.
The same one-hour walk
Once a day without deviation
Everytime I come back here
The place where I grew up
I visit my parents
I walk the same loop

And it's meaning keeps changing

Ideas of exercise
The prospect of solitude
A way of saying goodbye
Or a plea to memory

2.
I walk out of my parents' house
Along continually curving roads
The shattered bus stop glass
Crunches satisfyingly underfoot

3.
The lights shine brightly from
The windows of the community centre
Casting long shadows across grass
Sunday night was ballroom dancing
I took photos there years before
(My 2nd roll of film)
Couples waltzed around me
I fumbled with the camera
Like an adolescent boy with a bra strap
I remember it only in black and white
Beautiful sequinned skirts
Spinning like carousels
Flowing in slow motion

4.
I walk past the factories
Garden chemicals and meat alternatives
The production of Synthetic Ammonia
Keeps a thick grey smog hanging
Barricading the sky and preventing
The sun's rays from fully penetrating

Bare trees reach out for colour
Some days it smells like everything is rotting

Allergies are prevalent
Cashews can kill
Anthony says we're friends primarily because
We share similar maladies
(Eczema, asthma, a peanut allergy)
The Holy Trinity!
Anthony has smiley faces tattooed on his knees
To cheer him up when he's on the lavatory

5.
From the time we left school
Me, Anthony, Simmo and Jim

It was always the four of us
Simmo and I had known each other
Since day one of class one
He had the better machine gun noise

We discovered one day
We were related through
An aunty we both disliked

Jim was two months younger than me 
But looked older
Taller and stronger than all of us
I remember punching him hard
In the arm
Saying 'does that hurt?'
A smiling face bursting into laughter
'Not at all' he said

6.
I reach the halfway mark
The dark sky implies there's nothing
Beyond the streetlight lit fence
The trees here are sickly and thin
Requiring wood and chicken wire braces
For them to remain vertical
I take a picture of one
Connecting me to a part of myself
That is easy to forget here

Memories intrude without invitation
Pulling at me to join in
The same memories loop
Announcing themselves as significant
Becoming biography
Prone to contamination
An ever-adaptable truth
A 19th Century photograph
Altered imperceptibly whenever
It's brought out into the light

7.
I realise suddenly where I am
Shaking me out of myself
I walk down the alley
To avoid their house
I haven't walked past
Since Jim's motorbike crash
When the three of us
Went to his house days after
He was still in a coma
The room was the same
But the air had ceased moving
Curtains drawn in daylight
His mother's manic movements

I had no doubt he would be fine
Until I saw his father's face

At 19 we had no idea
How to speak to a grown man
Who was just about to lose
His child

8.
Three weeks later
Simmo called to tell me
I moved slowly up to the room
Of childhood imagination

I sat there frozen
On the end of my bed
Hands between my knees
Staring fixed focus
At the tiny details for hours
Things I would have never noticed
Paint brush strokes on doors 
Shadows moving slowly across walls
Studying the creases of a bedsheet 
On an unmade bed

These details became shapes
Maps and mountains
Endless and fascinating
Standing in for all that was gone

9.
Now I walk the same routes
I try to remember more
I remember his laughter precisely
I remember him telling me never
To stop being 'a bit weird'
I remember the last time we spoke
On the phone saying 'I love you' 
In a joke voice and laughing
I remember we spent everyday
Together that summer
But after seventeen years
As much as I try
I cannot remember more

10.
The specifics of remembrance
Are easily overthrown
Fragile recollections easily altered
The last time I saw him
He changed into his 
Leather motorbike suit  
Left his thick sweater in my room
This sweater now permeates 
So many memories of him
Wherever he is
Whatever the weather

Somewhere in my mind
Details must be hiding
Sharp edges and reliability

11.
I walk past another bus stop
Reminding me I'm almost back
The 36 rattles by
As it crawls through the night
Like an illuminated corridor
Taking its participants to a town
Whose folklore insists  
Their ancestors hanged a monkey
They suspected was French
And spying for Napoleon
In that town the people play along
A fictional game of historic guilt
That most likely came from a folk song
Which was sung so many times
Over so many years
In so many voices
No one can remember the original