Pavement

A Poem

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.

 

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