Help! I’m a prisoner in Market Drayton…

Help! I’m a prisoner in Market Drayton. Trapped in an ageing body, without a proper bus service, with limited income and very little chance of escape. And I’m not alone. I bet there are thousands of us all over the country, with our bus passes that we can’t use (here anyway) after six o’clock (oh, all right, after 18.00 hours) because there are no buses after that time. Taxis? Yes, of course. Do you know what a twenty-mile taxi ride costs? No I didn’t think you did. Right. Rant over. Settle down now. I claim to be a poet, as well as a writer of short stories and novels, so I’d better get on with the poetry thing, though since it’s my blog I can write what I damn well like. Gavin Maxwell wrote about an exercise he gives his students. He asks them to write the first line of a poem, and a student called Wayne wrote “This is the end of the poem.” Maxwell chose this line for his students to respond to and asked the group to carry on writing this poem. They struggled with the whiteness of the blank page, the meaning they could give to these words, the setting, the authorship. He really made them think. Investigating a similar idea, I chose a line from one of the notebooks I keep with me. The line runs like this: “Outside Macy’s and I haven’t bought a thing.” I wrote this in New York, just before our son married an American girl, and it was my first trip to the US. It was also my birthday. I took notes and my children (all adult now) watched me for signs of – what? I thought about it some more and realised that they understood the significance of the birthday and were aware our time together was running out. But I loved New York. The buzz, the energy! Here’s the finished poem. It won a prize, which was great! MANHATTAN, AUGUST My children are watching me. West 35th Street, outside Macy’s and I haven’t bought a thing. I sit in the lime green chairs provided by the management, by the pyramids of orange flowers, ditto, and watch a hungry man sell newspapers to indifferent passers-by. A man in shorts, with broken trainers, sings loudly to himself. I remember where I am. The roar of the roads. Manhattan, August. Heat, dust and unbreathable air and I am old, I tell myself. I’m old now. I look about me. I take notes. I talk to people. My children are watching me to see how I manage growing old. I buy stale pretzels in the street. Hear conversations: ‘Doesn’t work that way’, ‘Who knew?’ ‘Never saw that one coming.’ I never saw it coming. Seventy. Manhattan. August. My children are watching me. Inside I’m dancing. It’s okay.

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