Helen Burke was born in Doncaster, 1953, and started writing
poetry in the 1970s. Since then she has amassed an impressive
record of competition victories, including the Manchester
International, the Suffolk Poetry Prize, and the Ilkley Literature
Performance Poetry Prize (twice). Her work has been published
in Rialto, New Welsh Review, Northwords, Dreamcatcher, as
well as in numerous anthologies and pamphlets.
published by Valley Press.
Inch by inch, they emerge.
(We have a matchbox each.)
The path next to the cabbages is cold, grey.
And there’s been rain. Good Yorkshire rain,
in hisses and steams in the yard like fighting cocks.
It talks about trouble at the mine and how money
may always be the other fellow’s, and how
Dad’s job is on the line, but –
we don’t have ears that hear this yet.
We are racing caterpillars down by the Big Cut.
We’ve skived off school – where will that get us anyway?
Books and that.
Timing for each caterpillar is crucial.
But we get interruptions.
For now these are called parents and lessons.
Later they will be called marriage and kids.
But today, racing caterpillars, none of this matters.
We have new sandals on that Mam paid half a week’s wages for.
Our feet were measured for them like a baby’s corpse.
We have sherbet lucky dips lolling from our pockets.
We have used your maths test as the starting-line.
Now we can see them. The runners emerge from the stands.
My caterpillar is too laid back.
It was a mistake to call him Ringo.
In defiance you have called yours Paul. But he is too cocky.
You are laughing so much that I know you’ll be sick.
So I reckon,
I am in with a chance.
Just this once, eh?
Here's Looking at You Kid