‘For he is a mixture of gravity and waggery.’  Christopher Smart


Unlike kind Kit Smart, incarcerated,

by his father-in-law, in bedlam –

and estranged from his children forever –

I do not have a cat. I have the neighbour’s.

I think there is only one though it dresses

in ginger, tortoiseshell, Friesian, motley,

whatever. It is ‘the Devil, who is death’

for it stalks the wren, the blackbird, the robin,

that sing and nest. Poor Christopher – busy hack,



Her mother fixes a sheet of A4,

with a strip of masking tape top and bottom,

to the white board on the easel and ties

an apron round the little artist, who,

when she pulls the wrapping off the present

knows immediately what it is, holding

the child-size plastic palette exactly

as she should. Having chosen the colours –

her favourites: yellow, green, orange, red –

her mother places the paints in the wells.

She chooses a brush, begins, protrudes her tongue,



Walking – toward the town – down Henlys Lane,

its low, lichen covered dry stone walls

adorned with bird’s-foot trefoil, its borders

with cow parsley and, where run-off

gathers from Baron’s Hill, red campion,

we note ahead, amongst the cattle,

the usual, large flock of herring gulls,

facing south in the low-lying marshy field.

All as we have come to know and like.

But, today, we hear an explosion – loud

enough but too workaday to be thunder.

We stop and look beyond the library,



We are zapping Lego Star Wars’ characters.

Patiently, she shows me how to handle

the console – its buttons and paddle.

How kind she is about my ineptitude!

She commentates throughout. I am a convert.

This is no more solitary than reading –

with a work-out of psycho-motor skills!


But she is passive watching ‘Ninjago’ –

its violence, rudeness, a lack of irony,

a plenty of sarcasm – and its Lego

manikins: humour bypass, prosthetic hands,

stunted vocal range,



We were staying that weekend with your parents

at their corner shop to tell them you were

two months pregnant. You were already there

on Friday night when I came through the back door.

You were in the kitchen at the sink. A programme

about Captain Scott and his companions

entombed in ice and sliding seawards

was playing unwatched in the living room.

You told me the news about Aberfan.


That evening and in the many, many days

to follow there were bulletins and pictures,