We nursed the wounded gull to death
in the end, attended its small funeral, as the rain
beat down on the shed's tin roof. Tightrope-walked
on the high back walls, took giant steps, ran errands,
Milk, Potatoes, Silk Cut, Special Mince. We swung
in arcs on a length of flex from a lamppost,
racing our own shadows. Shot at aliens
dancing on a screen, pushing coin after coin
in the slot: reached level five, the mother ship.
The world was due to end next week
according to someone whose brother had read
Nostradamus. Magpies, two for joy. Walk round ladders, quick,
touch wood. We mimed the prayer of the Green Cross Code
and waited, good, at the side of the road.
Blessed ourselves when the ambulance sailed
by on a blue (our fingers, toes). Lay awake
in the fret of the night, thinking about the Secret
of Fatima, the four-minute warning, the soft-boiled egg.
Our boomerang did not come back. Frisbees
lodged in the canopies of trees forever, turning black.
I poked out moss from paving slabs, half-dreamingly,
with an ice-pop stick, then leapt at the looped rope
of my name called from a yard, and dawdled home,
trailing a strange tune on the xylophone railings.
The future lived in the crystal ball
of a snake preserved in alcohol in my grandmother's attic.
I looked, on tiptoe, out through the lens
of the highest window; learned the silver river's turn,
the slogans daubed on the ancient walls,
the column of smoke where something always burned.
Colette Bryce was born in 1970 and brought up in Northern Ireland. She won the
National Poetry Competition in 2003 and her second collection, The Full Indian Rope
Trick, was short-listed for the TS Eliot prize in 2004.