A run in the dark

A run in the dark 

Headlong down a narrow entry between
two high brick walls. Claustrophobic.
Black, only a faint strip of light above.
Runaway feet reverberating.
Eeeeaaawww! Something leaps beneath me.
Shy away, thud into one wall,
rebound onto the other, end in a heap.
Oh, just a cat… and I’ve given Paul the slip.

“Boys, please!”
As I pick myself up I remember how she stood
distraught between my warring older brothers.
Mike landed a blow on Paul who pushesd her
into the standard lamp, its light swaying crazily.
“Paul, dear, do stoppit… Oh!”
I was pummelling Paul: “Leave Mum alone!”
Then BANG!
“You little fool! I’ll give you more than a black eye.
I’ll kill you, d’you hear, KILL you
Racing off into the night I was aware of the
startled expression of Mr Green from next door
who I passed at our front gate.

Much later, in case Paul is still lying in wait
out front I clamber over our rear fence
every inch the hero and open the back door.
She looks up from ironing. She’s been crying.
“Where have you been? How could you be so silly?”
“I, I…”
“Why did you run away? Paul didn’t chase you.
We all went round calling for hours.Your father was
so annoyed. If you hadn’t stuck your oar in
it would have blown over by the time he got home.”
A straggly strand of hair has fallen across her brow.
She brushes it back with a jerky movement of her arm.
“Well, don’t stand there like a lost soul.”
Balancing the iron on its stand, she comes towards me.
“Just look at you, you’re filthy.”
Starts dusting down my jeans.
“Such a fuss with Mr Nosey Parker Green watching.”
Runs her fingers through my matted hair.
“Anyway, you’d better bathe that eye of yours.”
Dad looks out of the living room as I burst
through the hall, throwing myself up the stairs.
In the bathroom he prises the flannel from my eye.
“Mm, not too bad. Now, was it Paul who hit you?”
“It was nothing, Dad, honestly. All my fault.
I was silly, really very foolish…”

3 thoughts on “A run in the dark

  1. Robbie Burton

    Blimey, that provoked a story and a half!
    At first I thought the bike incident had caused the black eye but stanza 2 suggests Paul dunnit. So should the poem really start with ‘Boys, please!’, stanza 1 being redundant?

    1. Jonathan Mayman Post author

      Thanks for your thoughts, as always, Robbie – your prompts DO tend to get me going!
      Of course, I did have the stanzas in chronological order to start with, but then it seemed funkier to start with the poor lad’s terrified run in the dark (as in the punning title) to get the reader wondering before explaining all in the flash back followed by the flash forward.
      I was trying to evoke family tensions, sibling rivalry and a boy’s sometimes one-sided love affair with his mother… but perhaps I did get a bit carried away!

  2. Robbie Burton

    Oh, well in that case maybe you could move stanza 1 further down the poem… say to follow ‘garden path’. In which case Mr Green might be redundant as he interrupts the pace of the flight. Or maybe stanza 1 could follow: Racing off… headlong / down a narrow entry…

    which tightens the action up and makes it more breathless…

    maybe I’m getting carried away now!

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