4. Kissing cousins
I wonder if you remember me,
Jennifer; who I haven’t seen
these many years between?
Eileen was Auntie Kay’s girl
so her daughter, second cousin
to me? Life was such a whirl
those days, our family a web
tangled by divorce, by affluence,
by lack of it, by lack of sense,
by distance, by time together,
by lack of familial tlc, and
by unlovely sibling rivalry.
But I recall that sweet fourteen,
you who skipped so light between
the states of child and adulthood,
so sure, me wishing I could, too,
on holiday with Grandpa and
Grandma, St Leonards-on Sea.
You remember Bottle Alley?
That walk of coloured glass
fragments embedded in its walls
under the prom, six to ten feet
higher than the shingle beach
on to which in turns we jumped
daring higher and then higher
until, landing, I bit my tongue
and how that stung! But boys
don’t cry, folk always said and
you just said, ‘So let’s go home,
you go to bed; our Grans are
out and, if it gets any worse
poor Bryan, poor bleeding star
we can play doctor and nurse,
and you can look, not touch
and I can too, for that’s what
we know doctors, nurses do.’
Oh what a naughty, bossy
lass you really were, Jennifer!
But you did allow me a kiss -
‘kissing is all right’, you said,
‘and a cuddle in hospital bed’.