rodeo days

rodeo days


the morning paper round
then long ride to school,

if I was bright and early
I pedalled the unhurried way
across the hump-backed bridge
over the minnow stream

right at the fork along hawthorn lane
past the iron gates of the posh boys’ school
freewheeling downhill right to mine

early spring was hopeful and pretty,
I liked my Brylcreem hair showered
with cherry blossom confetti
but clawsome autumn,
in gathering gloom
riding over fallen chestnuts
and rusted leaves,
was much more my cup of tea
then winter,
trudging Epping Forest snowdrifts –
singing hits,
That’ll be the day
It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to
I wanna be Bobby’s girl
loud to keep out the cold –
when no one could hear me,
and call me a sissy
my voice broke half way through
verse two of
Do you wanna dance?
I rasped to the bitter end

(puberty slaughtered innocence –
but my ‘first time’ was postponed… indefinitely –
‘Swinging London’ never swung for me)

while everyone else
wore crisp new blazers
from official outfitters,
I looted the school lost property box
picking caps, scarves, ties,
football boots and socks,
and at Christmas 
plimsolls and a running vest
to look my best for
the annual cross-country…

skirt the cornfield hotfoot
sprint the path by the army camp,
follow the riverbank,
turn back for home at the blasted oak –

the crowd applauding
me leading

hit the funnel first again…
the rest toiling in my wake

school-masters’ smiles
at my victory
lit my day – for just a day
then back to shaking heads
over my inadequacies,

and frowns
I pretended not to see

scavenging cast-offs
like Cox’s cap from the ‘lost’ box
(his folks were loaded anyway)
summed my school days
better than reports portraying me

as ‘an amounter to not very much’

but my daily rodeo-riding
miles of winding lanes

fishing the Roding,
climbing forest hornbeams
singing my heart out
whatever the weather
that was the me
for no one to see.


© coolhermit 2023
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