Laxton (1)

All day, we climbed the tree.
There was a ditch,
a metal fence, a stile.
There was a dirt track,
and on the other side,
an old army barrack.

I was six, or maybe seven.
The sun shone all day,
and in the middle of the day,
we sat in the shade of the tree,
ate salmon paste sandwiches,
drank tea and orange squash.

They worked with scarves
tied around their heads.
Every now and then
I'd climb the stile,
cross the track,
wanting to know more.

At one end of the hut,
steep wooden steps.
Inside, lines of metal beds
(striped mattresses folded to air,)
narrow wardrobes,
(one between each bed.)

The women chased me out,
back across the ditch,
away from the dust,
back to the tree.
"Stay on the grass,
by the tree!"

Over and over,
I pulled myself up
into the branches,
then climbed down again.
Over and over, polka dots
spinning as I twisted down.

And the women's voices
floating from the windows,
across the sunlit grass,
rising up to me in the tree,
as they cleaned and swept and
set the place straight.

At the end of the day,
as shadows lengthened,
they folded us tiredly into cars,
spread us across the
bench seats, to sleep the
long drive home.