Leaving 68 Tangier Road
Our house empties out into the removal van.
We watch it drive off, sleep on bare floorboards
in blue nylon sleeping bags borrowed from next door,
our voices echoing off the walls.
The next day we board the Flying Scotsman in clouds
of noisy steam, head North – change at Darlington, admire
Stephenson’s Rocket. Then a train to Thornaby. 7 Baffin Court
is finished, one of the first on the estate slowly going up
on an aerodrome abandoned after the war.
The sofa won’t go through the front door. A sofa in the garden!
I take a photo of Caroline sitting on it, in black and white.
Mum puts an ad in the paper. She digs the garden, yard by yard –
clods of clay one foot square – hoes and rakes in wellingtons,
plants grass seed, turns a white sink into a pond.
I hang over the fence, say Hello to Lynne next door. She’s only three,
says, If you don’t stop talking posh I’ll smash yer face in.
I miss my best friends, Nellie and Lesley, Ian and Gregory, the city –
receive a big brown envelope filled with letters from my class,
read how life is going on without me, see the rubbings out,
sharpen my pencil, write back.
I am nine years old, my youngest brother not yet born.
I make my plans to take my bike and run away,
catch the train down South, sleep on East Sheen Common
through the summer.
The only thing stopping me is the knowledge that
I can’t get on the train without a ticket.
Janet Hatherley lives in London and is a special needs teacher. Her poems have been published in several magazines, including Artemis, Ink Sweat & Tears, Obsessed With Pipework and South Bank Poetry. She won third prize in the Barnet poetry competition, 2015 and was commended in Cannon Poets Sonnet or Not, 2017. She has work forthcoming in The Curlew and in Under the Radar.