Ten Pound Alan

Fastest runner in the school — I watched him
ease ahead of me on sports days, his chest
pressed against the finishing tape, first every time.
A good fighter, brilliant at rounders, climbing trees,
he once ate dog biscuits in my back garden,
sitting in a deck chair, Fritz’s paws on his knees.

I wasn’t sure what emigrating meant.
How far was that? I was afraid to ask.
I knew where he was going though.
That country in the corner of the map on the wall,
spread out like orange peel.
Ages and ages on holiday.

We went to his house before they left.
I sat on the floor by the fire pulling threads
from the carpet, a varnished boomerang
above me on the wall. His mother, poised
in front of net curtains, a silhouette inside silver
cigarette smoke, talked about the wages out there.

It was June, we stood in assembly
holding blue hymn books,
too much sun in the hall. The teacher,
her long dress yellow with flowers,
asks us all to wave to Alan. He hands me his book,
runs along the row, down the corridor,
looking back at no one.

Michael Crowley (UK)
From Michael's book First Fleet

Editor's note: Ten-pound Poms

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