The American swing in its oak shelter

with a living roof sprouting carved tusks or

dragons teeth is very RHS Wisley.

My five year old grand daughter has just

ridden on it and is now pushing it

for the pleasure of others until a tall,

lithe boy of twelve or thirteen arrives

and begins to punt it slowly at first

then faster and higher but always

with care. She joins him, holding the ropes,

urging the swing, and leads the ecstatic

laughter of all the children gripping

the bench as it launches to the sky

and returns to earth, again and again.

Suddenly, I think of Holden Caulfield,

lost, gentle, loving, and his ‘goddam choice’

for what he would wish to be – catching

children in the fields of rye before they fall

out of reach, out of sight, over and over.




Note: An American swing comprises a PE or old fashioned school bench (without the feet) that is hung from ropes or chains and that moves like a saw or a pendulum from side to side – rather than to and fro like the conventional single seat swing. Like the Indian swing, which moves to and fro, the American swing will accommodate more than one person. At the time of posting, this one has been removed. In Surrey, where Wisley is situated, there are, it appears,  risk averse literati.




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  1. #1 by Ashen Venema - May 21st, 2016 at 12:44

    So interesting how we connect things up via significant moments, and feelings. Lovely poem.
    Sad that risk has become an insurance issue.

  2. #2 by Alan Horne - May 23rd, 2016 at 20:22

    This prompted me to wonder, as the father of a tall, lithe boy of twelve or thirteen, whether Caulfield imagines catching the children before they fall out of sight into adulthood.

  3. #3 by David Selzer - May 24th, 2016 at 13:19

    Yes, I think that’s right, Alan. Caulfield has looked into what for him is the abyss of adulthood – and so has, as it were, turned back to stop other children from falling. (Writing that made me think of Orpheus!).

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