We shed our gap-toothed gentleman coats
and ran white skinned into a purple river,
George (a weak swimmer) grabbed handfuls of
reeds as the water undid a fantasy of clouds.
Our feet found love with the edges of rocks and
our swimming trunks unloaded the stink of chlorine
into the cold bright dark light miracle of water,
our reflections broken into champagne pieces and
beautiful as only two laughing boys can be.
How clichéd to be lost in the heart of the morning,
as George sat with his orange juice like an
illustration drawn by the most lighthearted of artists,
a little prince against a backdrop of blooming baoabs
that shrugged behind him like green diamonds
with the tunes of birds still clinging to their leaves.
How deeply romantic I was at fourteen –
too young to have read Brideshead Revisited,
too old to have gazed at George’s hair and
seen a simple tumble of boring blond.
This was the summer that ached with everything,
like a muscle throbbing during tennis
reminding you you’re playing as best you can.
That summer was the shimmering pause
between two acts of a dismal play –
our childhood not yet left behind,
lingering like a tan line on the shoulders of joy.
One night we drank lemonade out of brandy
glasses and sat together in the biggest bath you’ve
ever seen, winding our wrists together to sip
from each others drinks, his hair was dark and
damp at the tips and there were bubbles everywhere.
Such things I remember, the gentleness of first love
and the way it shapes each love to come,
I’m still a sucker for blonds and a gallant lover of
summers spent as they should be spent:
in water baby England, with the countryside
humming inside your ears, and the sunlight
warming up the grass to greet your feet after
swimming in rivers, and to wind down at night
with a friend who is beautiful,
and to kiss them just once, near the ear and only here,
to wish them goodnight, goodnight, goodnight.