readers poetry

Birkrigg Scar

by Alan Whittaker

From the window of his care home room
He peers at the suffused purple haze
Draping the lilacs, bowed with bloom.

Conjuring dreamy images of bygone days.

Bilberrying on Birkrigg Scar.

Purple lips and purple fingers,
Purple berries in a jam jar,
The memory from childhood lingers.

Short pants, sandals, and a bottle of pop.

Dandelion and burdock; nectar… sweet,
Three old pennies from the corner shop,
At the end of a long-demolished street.

Sally Jane was in command that day,
A freckled ten-year-old; elected
Because she knew the hideaway,
Where bilberries glistened undetected.

He remembers offering her his drink,
Her shy smile, and the sense of bliss,
When she touched his face, and with a wink,
Pursed purple lips into a kiss,
Enviously watched by Bill and Harry,
School chums; birds of a feather,
Searching for their elusive quarry,
Knee -deep in the purple heather.

Pals throughout the next decade,
Comrades in khaki, they welcomed the chance .

To follow the band in the big parade
And board the troopship bound for France.

No band was there late in May,
To play rousing, marching tunes.

When in a huddled heap they lay,
Sheltering in scrub and dunes.

Exhausted by their rush to reach,
The abattoir on Dunkirk beach.

Bill and Harry, who went to war,
Never to return to Birkrigg Scar.

To collect bilberries in a jar.

He sees them from his care home room,
Phantoms wreathed in the scented bloom
Of lilacs in their summer dress,
That summon through the window pane
The memories of a sweet caress,
And the purpled kiss of Sarah Jane.