5 JULY 1986, Page 31


On wet days when washing lay in milky Piles through the house, my mother moved like clouds Above me, heaving to a storm — to hit me With raw-red hand and arm, as one near drowned Strikes out in disbelief at finding land.

On both my reddening knees she would then tend The flesh, as a gardener, delicately Turning the leaves of her strawberry plants to find The ripening fruit — fruit that would not keep For her for all her loving husbandry.

After all my falls I'd go to her, traipse My scalding legs for her to bathe the blood Flash-flooding either knee; blood that welled Despite her swabs; blood that days later would Have toughened to the black skin of a grape.

Stiffly, as in armour, I'd walk away From her, and her hug, each small leather shield Fixed firm with the other smart badges young Children will wear to show where they Want you to know that they wish to belong.

David Homer