I Thought I Was Going On Holiday
Grey, buttoned coat, too long in the sleeves,
A hand-me-down from one of the twins:
Derek, or maybe Dave…
Hem needs sewing, one pocket is ripped.
Gas mask and label, both hanging on string,
Me in tears amid reassuring grins…
Suitcase my father’s from the First World War,
Spare pants inside, spare shirt and grey, spare socks:
Once Derek’s maybe, or Dave’s.
Shoes new, but Utility.
Laces, just learned to tie,
Waiting nervously until the lady knocks…
Look like a parcel bought for Christmas,
Without the brown paper wrapping:
From Derek possibly, or Dave.
A gift for an unsuspecting guardian.
Nails cut, ears washed, hair brushed,
How I hate it when mother is flapping…
Conscious though, that she doesn’t want me to go,
Tears falling onto her patterned dress:
Derek’s here too. And Dave.
My nose is running, salt wet in my eyes.
Flannel rubs at the corners of my lips,
Mustn’t go to the station a mess…
An only child, I’ll miss my mum,
And my best friend, my Teddy:
Yes, Derek too. And Dave.
I’ll try to be brave and remember my manners.
Say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘Grace’,
But still need a wee before I’m ready…
Herded together along the road,
Have to stand up on the tram:
With cousins Derek. And Dave.
Journey too short to Snow Hill Station.
Goodbyes too soon, too many others around,
The platform too, is such a terrible jam…
Wanted to stay home, thought I was safe,
The Morrison shelter would suffice:
Like for Derek. And Dave.
Blanket, pillow and Teddy to hug tight.
Cage to protect, all made from steel,
Though it always seems colder than ice…
Now I’m travelling to I know not where,
To the house of a total stranger:
No Derek, or Dave.
Alone, aggrieved, alarmed, afraid.
Too stubborn to cry, or cling, or wail,
Leaving my mother in imminent danger…
The train pulls out, how will I know
If my mom is killed in a raid?
Or Derek, or Dave?
Miles away in a village school, maybe?
Fields and lanes and so far from my home,
How could I go to my family’s aid?
Children weeping, some laughing, some numb,
The heartache palpable now I’m alone:
Without Derek, or Dave.
A label, a suitcase, a box, a stray.
A vagrant, an orphan, a migrant, a waif,
God forgive mom for what she has done…
An evacuee leaves Birmingham…