Today’s prompt was to answer a string of questions and then build a poem out of them. Several years ago, I lived in Portchester, a village about eight miles away from Portsmouth (on the south coast of England), which used to have an annual gala in the grounds of Portchester Castle. Since the third or fourth question asked me to write down the name of a local festival, I based the poem around the Portchester Gala and incorporated the rest of the questions too.
The sultry summer weather
has caused flowers to blossom and fruit to ripen
around the soft grey stone of the ruined castle.
The people attending the annual village festival
throng the grassy grounds – dogs running
and barking, enjoying the festivities
as much as their owners.
When I was younger,
I longed to take a turn on the big roundabout,
spinning around in a blur of colour and noise –
but it cost too much money.
I dreamed of finding coins on the street,
or something precious I could sell –
like diamonds or saffron.
In the present, the crowd thickens. Someone
has scrawled in chalk on a nearby wall,
‘The fair’s a rip off!’
Nevertheless, I stroll with my
husband, fingers intertwined,
ignoring the conspiracy to
fleece us of our money.
In the heat of the sun, my teeshirt
sticks to my skin
and I’m reminded of school sports day
in the town where I grew up.
(I think a famous local cricketer, Sir Gary Sobers
may have turned up to present the prizes.)
This place is different: this morning, outside my
window, I found a small spiral shell –
we are only a short distance from the sea.
The coronavirus death toll is still
an unknown event in a future far off.
Perhaps one day in years to come, my older self
will read the letter I’m writing now and be
reminded that “the 2006 Gala was the best one yet.”
For now, though, the thought of a pandemic virus is as
unlikely as a unicorn, or as meeting the
Gruffalo in my local supermarket.
The sun still beats down as I walk down an
alley between tents and find a small child sobbing
because he has lost his mother.
I stroll with him to the border of the castle grounds
and hear the sound of carefree revellers.
For a moment, I am afraid that his mother
has abandoned him; and then I see
her pinched white face, her lips mouthing his
name. Her face when I present her with him
belongs on a picture postcard.