Memento Mori

All about my first love – one never forgets – the three here form a set I perform .  🙂



Southport Days With Shirley

We were teenage innocents
Holding hands in a shelter
Huddling against winter winds
Watching for her last bus,
The 21:05 – route 347 –
To turn from Lord Street,
On to Marine Drive
And swallow Shirley away
To Rufford, nr. Ormskirk,

Wanting it to come soon…
Yet… yet… yet… not just yet.

Back row nights at the Odeon
Sharing popcorn, fingers linking,
Shoulders brushing
Slyly caressing the bicep
I thought was her breast
Bursting to kiss her lips
But dreading fumbling.

Shirley loved the cinema
And losing herself in its magic.
I said I enjoyed films too
But ignored the screen
Preferring to study her profile,
Light and dark and light again
In the flickering shadows.

Bunking out quick
Beating the Anthem.
Dashing Lord Street,
To the Kardomah – loser paid.
She always outran me
Except those times
When I was speeding.

Hot chocolate for Shirley,
With a buttered toasted teacake,
Nothing was too much for her
When I had the necessary.
Black coffee for me.

She was a good girl.
Sensible. Reliable.
A trainee hairdresser
With a future.

I lived, by my wits, on the streets
Dealing speed and hash
Taking far more than I sold.

We had plans to start courting,
When I got a flat, a job
Made myself presentable
Suitable for Sunday tea
At her parents’ place in
Rufford, nr. Ormskirk,

We may even have been lovers,
I wish I could recall.
We spent one night together.
I was high and hallucinating…
Talking gibberish…
That I can recall.

In time the bombers wasted me.
Mind and body fell apart.
My blood turned septic.
My teeth crumbled.
Shirley could not stand more drug excess
She tired of my craziness
And made a final break.

Heading out of town
I glimpsed her at ‘our’ table
Centre of the Kardomah window
Nibbling a delicate Danish pastry,
Sitting with her new bloke – name of Peter
He had a job and could afford to treat her.

She waved at me – the merest flutter
Wiped a discreet tear from her cheek
And a smear of butter
From the corner of her mouth.

I waved back, shrugged
And hitched back south.

I heard she was soon in the family way
And married to that Peter bloke.

It did not seem to matter much,

Back then.


Just 2 days after I wrote that I ‘met’ Shirley online (after 45 years searching) and we rekindled our friendship – she had stage 4 cancer though – so I wrote this next to her as a promise I could never keep.

Let’s Dance.

Take my hand,
I promise we will dance
Tangos, boleros,
Wild fandangos.

Drink muscatel straight from the bottle
Sing loud outrageous songs
With curtains wide and lights full on
Through firefly jacaranda nights.

Make stabs at the lyrics of Bob Dylan classics,
I’ll crawl out the window acting like a diplomat
With you in that leopard-skin pillbox hat
Every inch a Siamese cat.

It’s all right, Ma,
Ignore the blood spotting the floor
It’s my forehead bleedin’
From butt butt buttin’ on heaven’s door.

We’ll have fun
Freewheeling Highway Sixty One.

We’ll revive forty-fives.
Doo-wop backing “Da doo Ron Ron,”
And “Dancing in the Street”.

We’ll cuddle up to Coltrane’s “Love Supreme”
Sweet and cool on sultry summer nights.

Neighbours will mutter,

“They ought to know better,”

And shutter their ears
Against our whooping
Celebrating nothing left to lose.

I’ll stand at the window blowing my alto
You? Well, you can learn the banjo.

Tuck your red dress in your ‘Janet Regers’.
Turn breathless cartwheels across the floor
Make me seasick.
Make me yell for
More! More! More! More! More! More! More!

And we will be dancing
Wild dervish dances.

Leaping, twisting,
Banshee howling,

Oh yes, my darling,
I promise you dancing
I promise you singing and drinking
Laughter and loving and joy
I promise you


Then I heard that she had died and this one completes a trilogy I perform to damping eyes (including mine).

Shirley Died Today

The long expected news still shocked
Her family and loved ones at her bedside
With good humour and bravery
She gently slipped away.

Was the cancer biding its time
On those wet windy
Nineteen sixties evenings
When we sheltered
On Marine Drive, Southport
Waiting for her last bus home to Rufford
Nr Ormskirk, Lancashire

She could not come home with me
I had no home
The upturned boat I sheltered under
Did not have room for two.

I did not know it then
But I was a lousy boyfriend
I did not know what boyfriends did
Or girlfriends expected
So we parted.

I married another
Fathered sons and daughters
But I could not forget her
Shirley was gentle, passionate, strong,
She was all I looked for in a woman.

She married another
That did not last
My marriage foundered too
That’s what marriages tend to do.

Shirley lived her life
Gave birth to her babies
Nurtured her children
Wore a new hat when they married.

While I was, perhaps, a footnote in her life
A memory of a chaotic boy she knew
Blown in the winds of drugs and crime
She meant far more to me
She was my first lover
The first to welcome me deep into her very self.

I prayed when I read the news
I asked that she be made welcome
In the place she did not believe in
I waited… in silence…waiting…listening

Long minutes.

I heard her voice,
“Ricky, it’s wonderful.”
I guess I’ll see her again.



© coolhermit 2023
Views: 2137
critique and comments welcome.
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I can see why you have wet eyes when reading this. It is the story of two lives, who though went separate ways, still were intertwined. I like that you were honest, brutally so, which I think makes it all the richer. I am sorry for the loss of your friend. You managed to capture a novel in three short pieces. Well done.

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