By Peter Burrows
Legs running, legs running to the far end
Of the street, echoing stampede of feet
After feet. Down again, up again, gather,
Disperse. My sister comes over first.
Others follow. A bike wheel skids up.
The rider eying me like a dull pet
Speeds off. One asks her my name. They drift off.
The pavement’s smooth warmth comforts my bare legs.
Planted within the benign reach of home
I return to scraping stones and squishing ants,
Occasionally, looking up at distant
Goings on – the shifting shapes and huddles
Rearranging and changing sides of the street.
Venturing like a coach up and down
The touchline at outcomes he cannot change,
Suddenly I’m pulled along with the crowd
Not knowing what we’re running to or from
Or why we’re now standing about. Other times,
The sun high and beating. Tops off. Water fights.
Droplets evaporate before our eyes
Off the gecko-hopping hot surface. The road
Sticky like black flapjack. A little plaything,
My brother pushes me fast on my new bike,
Too fast – I win the race – but fly over
Handle bars onto my face. Mouth, blood-filled.
Wailing. Days later my top teeth blacken,
And I’m taken to have them pulled out.
Returning with a nod, but back to the side lines
Where I watch some girl from another street
Draw a crowd telling tales that are pored over,
Uncertainly. Where does my brother go
Beyond the streets we only pass hand in hand
Or by car? Is it the same vague places from where
Those older boys come to stand on the edge
Of our street unnerving him? As it grows
Dark our numbers drop with each call home.
I wonder if I put one foot in front
Of the other balancing on this kerb,
Following the edge out as it curves along
All the other streets, looping in and out
Could I – without falling off – travel the world,
Until I returned again to meet myself,
And this curious crowd, centred around
This patch where we watch and play, play and learn?
And then I spot I’m not the smallest anymore.
Distracted – it flies by me: the dull scuffed
Wayward bounce of the half-flat ball wobbling
Down out of our street, and I chase after it.