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So Many Places to Hide

They gave you full honours, (which would have made you laugh). Union Jack draped over your coffin, your mother proud, crying silently into her tissue as we stood beneath the alders. I bought lilies. Stems two feet long, and threw them onto the scattered earth; their waxy faces brilliant white against the brown soil. ‘Whores’, you called them, ‘Now take your rose, all together a more coy creature, would never be caught with its pants downs, or even an iris, but lilies? Lilies wouldn’t wear knickers in the first place.’

Wayne Broad caught my eye.

Saturday night we smoked weed in the barn, watched DVDs you nicked from the market – My Beautiful Launderette, Top Gun, Lost Boys – straight backed, knees never touching on your mum’s old brown settee, lip-synching to Corey Haim singing in the bath ‘I ain’t got a man’, and your mum, stood in the doorway in her apron, cheeks pink from making jam with the last of the plums. Stupid it was, she said, nodding at the TV, watching vampires, it’ll give you ideas. You looked at me, and I had to look away laughing. Out in the paddock the old mare, saddle-sore, whinnied in the rain.

I danced Njinksy, Count Prince Rudolf, Woyzeck, running through roles like shedding skin, heart pumping, soaring through the darkness while below, rows of shadowed faces coughed, and murmured, willing me higher: Icarus reaching for the sun.

The night I danced the Chosen One, you were three thousand miles away, four hours ahead, as if you’d inhabited the world before me. Nights were worse you said, foot patrols, checkpoints, crouched in the blind dark, shivering, ears straining for the slightest sound – once a lame dog lifting its nose to sniff the air, and once a boy no more than seven or eight, but you couldn’t talk about that – while back home young farmers swore across the bar, old men sitting in the snug, dogs lying untidy across flagstone floors, pint after pint, bitter mouths cursing the Poles picking the potatoes, then the apples and pears for less than a day’s wages. Martin Higgins jumped on a table, muddy boots knocking over pints; men shouting; said he knew where they parked their caravans at the top of Astbury Lane.

What do you think about when you dance you asked? Do you think of the wheat fields rippling in the wind, the folds of blue hills stretching to the sky, the beech and elm in full crown, and between them dark lanes, banked high with cow parsley; the hidden spinneys and sudden glades, new grass, earthy and cool against our skin?

From Sophie Von Hellermann A Shropshire Lad and Alessandro Raho, Ben.
I Cheer a Dead Man’s Sweetheart De la Warr Pavilion Exhibition

Christina Sands – blogs about Adult Education, Creativity, Learning and Community here. And you can read about her response to I Cheer A Dead Man’s Sweetheart here.

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