Judith Arnopp-historical novelist
A charming collection detailing a 1960's childhood and considering the human desire to be remembered after death.
My Cousin, Danny
Our tent was a splash
of urban orange in his meadow
where he was part of the landscape.
His eyes were the green brown shade of
the cowpats in the splattered byre and
his rough-knit jumper smelled of hay.
His wellies were mired to the knee
while mine, newly released from umbilical string,
gleamed like Whitby jet.
He showed me a broody hen on her secret clutch
and a nest of pink-mouthed kittens
that snagged my cardigan with tiny hooked claws.
In the hay barn, where sunlight striped
the dusty dark, the bales were piled to the roof,
and he became the king of my castle.
He held me briefly by the shoulders
and left a trail of spittle on my lips,
a taste of humbug.
After that I was allowed only a glimpse
of his dirty neck, the crown of his windblown head.
When his mother’s brood of straw-haired children
surged from the kitchen to hug and kiss
with dirty hands and sticky faces,
I looked for his goodbye but … he was not there.
I felt his lack as the camping gear jolted
and the car nosed along the winding rutted track and
I watched the farmhouse dwindle.
Then, from the back seat window, I saw him
climbing the meadow gate, his hair a clump of windblown grass.
He stopped to look and raised his hand.