Stockport, Cheshire; Heath Street, Hampstead,
A basement off the Gray’s Inn Road;
Coram Fields, the Foundling Hospital,
My father dressed like a gipsy
Sawing his cello in Lyon’s Corner House,
Grandpa with the Sunday joint
And a trip to the gods at Sadler’s Wells
On Saturday afternoons.
This was my heritage;
And many demonstrations,
An infant revolutionary wheeled in a pram –
Speakers’ Corner meant more to me
Than did the statue of Peter Pan.
The first theatre I ever saw
The inside of was the Unity;
Lenin and Stalin were nursery gods
And at night behind the curtain
There were meetings, meetings, meetings.
At nursery school (Methodist, Kingsway Hall)
I came across gentle Jesus meek and mild
Who suffered little children unto him.
The infant mind can hold many contradictions
But my mother was not amused
At my Christ on the Cross
On every lamp-post all the way home.
The god who looks after children
Protects them from rational fears
(Death and disease, loneliness and age)
And gives them in return
Wild, vibrant fears of the dark,
Beasts and banshees, wolves and bears.
I had a happy childhood
Frightened of the dark.