Headlights

Picking you up to go driving
I’d get there early to watch you get ready
both seventeen and tangled
in that unspoken thing between us
Cruising the looping country lanes
in those dim headlight beams
That was our place, alone together at last
Two teenagers, eyeing each other sideways
and wondering who each of us would be
would you always stay right there
would you always be
in the car with me
Another mile, another mile
in those endless times…

Thrumming rain upon the roof
your fingers knitted in the glovebox light
always asking me so many questions
our laughter lingering and playful
in the freezing depths of northern winter
You’d push me to say who I liked at school
watching so carefully
I’d study the glowing dashboard for a full five minutes
turn the tape over, change the conversation
stealing so many glances
at your perfect saucer eyes
so smart and so alive
Another mile, another mile
in our early lives…

Somewhere along the journey
we’d stop the car, snuff out the lights
and in the backseat, without a word
we’d learn a new geography
You’d breathe your lessons into me
the beguiling wonder of our story
skirting the youthful boundaries
of a near-love I’d forever treasure
And afterwards you’d finger our initials
on the foggy inside of the glass
I always loved that, but so sad
that those smears outlasted us
Another mile, another mile
in those simple, priceless, times

Twenty years of change sailed by
suddenly, from the silence, you called me
heard I’m in town, saying ‘we should talk again’
I say ‘how about a drive…?’
Eyeing me from the driver’s seat
you say I’d ‘become all the things I used to pretend to be’
you said it was ‘a good thing’
and now you teach at our old college
you’re not married but there’s a good man waiting
and the baby, she already looks like you
Who’d have thought those teenagers were headed here
running country laps, in those dim headlight beams
another mile, another mile
in those precious lives, we had to leave behind

Another mile, another mile
I’m so glad we got to share those times…

[2021]

Thanks for reading.

All my poems.

For Jordan

Out driving our first cars at night
snaking the blackness of North East country roads
I’d flick the headlights off
hear the girls scream
then back on and we’d crack up laughing

In our town, there wasn’t much to do
but wander looping streets
haunt the park outside of college
blow house to house, see who was home
or spend it lying in your bedroom laughing

When you and Chris split, he handled it okay
drank too much a week or two and then
got a little down but everything went on
still way too soon for Mike to tell you
so we all sat as friends and laughed

Back then, I couldn’t think of much else but Jenny
but I loved the way you’d say my family name
still hear it ringing from the depths of memory
standing with you in some sticky bar
and you collapsing into Mike laughing

They were gentle times, good times
before we were scattered wide
I don’t think I saw or thought of you that often
twenty years just paced before our eyes
how I hope you kept on laughing

With your man, your son
your life carved out somewhere…

On a Brighton beach, one weekend this summer
Mike was chatting, said ’the cancer took you’
and nothing more to add to that
just taken – that’s all he knew
there on the pebbles, I stood, winded and weeping

Just taken – nothing more to add to that

Jordan, it was laugher, laughter
of you; that will always be my memory
sweet laughter, laughter
and the way you spoke my family name…

[2018]

Thanks for reading.

This poem is featured in my new book! ‘The Ship-wrecker’s Lamp: Selected Poems 2010 – 2020’ available now.