Humber Doucy Lane

Ian Pople

I collected up the windfalls and packed them
in a cupboard for the winter. They didn’t keep

the taut smell of bark and musty autumn
but shrivelled and yellowed like the tapes

put round the trees to trap
the caterpillars that climbed the trunks.

I cut-out the middleman, took
the fruit to grocers’ in the precinct

and put a notice on the gate. Mother said
that I could keep the money. But no one came

to buy. In my shed, fifty yards
from the house, dried spiders and a drumkit

replaced the chemist’s bench and tubes;
gas-jars I brewed oxygen in to flare

magnesium strips; the whole hut
and the orchard brightened. As instructed

by my teachers I turned my head away.
Years afterwards, our neighbour, Mrs Johnson,

splintery with Alzheimer’s, walked naked
up and down the lane. Her labrador pup,

hit a glancing blow by a car on Rushmere Road,
pulled weakly from his basket to lick my face.