The Boy Next Door

Not quite next door – but almost, just down the road, that was where he lived. He first came calling, asking, “Can your little girl come out to play?” when he was four and I was almost two, a very early recognition of a kindred spirit. We remained partners in crime throughout our childhood years, not really seeking to get into mischief, but somehow things happened that didn’t always go down well with the adults. His family moved, and our contact became sporadic then fizzled out altogether, though our parents kept in touch, until eventually, after a break of several decades, we met up again. That inspired this poem:

For John

(a lifetime ago …)

Together we climbed trees
Set fire to the field
Caught tiddlers in the canal
And collected frogspawn,
Trespassed unawares
Made honest mischief
Investigating mysteries
And covered for each other’s misdeeds.
,Listened to your father’s music
From the Land of your Fathers,
Shared Never-never-land
With cowboys and Robin Hood
In perfect understanding
Without guile.

 From you I learnt what faith means:
Gave absolute trust
And had you said
“Walk on water”
I would have
Straightaway.

In the past fifty years
No other god has ever had such
Utter
Unquestioning
Devotion from me
And my trust was not betrayed
Thank you, friend!

Now, among the shoals of our selves
Each swimming in the sea of our lives
Heads break the surface
Seeking others.
My six-year-old self
Touches, half a century later,
Yours, aged eight.
The swell swallows and throws
Them up with the surf,
The flotsam and jetsam
Of our memory
The drained, bleached bare bones
And driftwood
Bits and pieces unevenly preserved
From a past still present.
Thus the child speaks
Through the adult
To another, beloved child.
An adult replies,
A child disguised.

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2 thoughts on “The Boy Next Door

  1. I am reading a book “Let’s Take the Long Way Home.” I am only on chapter 3, but it deals with a special friendship in the adult years, which ties in to your poem is perfect. I have taken this past year to reflect on the few people who have remained in my life, or returned. Many fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons.
    You have inspired me to return to my writing. I know that I have to wait a few months since purchasing a home is fraught with detours. Just know I enjoy reading your blogs and look forward to them.

  2. I wrote this a few years ago, but was prompted to include it here as a post because he phoned to wish us a happy Christmas and healthy new year, and it seemed appropriate to the nostalgic season. Old friends are so important – and it’s amazing how many of them do somehow pop back into our lives after many years and decades, and how easy it is with some to pick up where we left off.
    So glad I could give you a push back in a positive direction, Susanne – I look forward to reading your novel when it comes out.

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