Barnett they called him at the big house –
“Rude,” my father said.
To his wife he was “My Char”-
“Love,” my mother said.
Did she call him that because he loved
his tea – strong and sweet
on the broken bench behind the shed
where he cleaned his spade and fork?
Mr. Cuppa Char –
but maybe that was impolite
so to his face I called him Mr Charles.
I used to help him cut the blackbirds
from the strawberry nets. He cupped
them in his soil-lined hands
and threw them in the air –
“Fly home, you buggers,” he’d say.
One warm Spring he left his jacket
in the shed – two weeks later
when he needed it he found
his pocket full of freckled robin’s eggs.
They hatched – a pouch of orange beaks
on stringy necks until feathered,
bright-eyed, chirping things they flew
into the frothing hawthorn hedge.
He jumped on his bike, slung his saggy
bird-limed jacket over the handlebars
and rode whistling through the chorusing lane
leaving me holding the nest.
put them in the shed
all the things you no longer want
pile them all in
until it is brimming with decay
and bulging at the seams
shut the door
and then slowly
inch by inch and yard by yard
you can forget about it
A shed is not
leaves inside. No
within the dankest
place we try
ourselves, our secrets
in a tin. Do