When I was twelve I set off with a friend the same age
Across the fields to detonate a miniature cannon
That we’d filled with powder from emptied fireworks.
With our fingers in our ears we whispered ‘Amen’.
We’d chosen a huge railway arch especially for its echo.
We knelt, holding the glowing ends of illicit fags,
But as we edged our trembling hands towards the fuse
A loud yelp came from what looked like a pile of rags.
It was a shrill animal sound coming from the end of the arch
Where a couple were making the beast with two backs –
Undulating and throbbing, with shopping bags for pillows.
Flesh was meeting flesh with resounding thwacks.
The man was still wearing his raincoat, parted like a tent
And exposing his bare bottom as he slid back and forth.
The woman wore a flowery dress hitched up past her stomach.
Her legs kicked at the air in a semaphore of love.
We two boys stood there frozen, too scared to move.
I’d never seen anything like it before.
Suddenly the woman stopped and said, ‘Put it on.
‘For fuck’s sake. Please. No fucking more.’
“She means babies.” my friend whispered, “You watch.
“He’ll get a Johnny out now. A French letter.
“They put them on and then you find them in the river.”
My friend said he was an expert in such matters.
As the lovers’ clothing started seething again
We knew we’d strayed into another realm –
Ruled by unfamiliar deities, by Eros and by Pan,
Requiring as prayers weird, primitive groans.
The arch swirled with hormones, an erotic mist.
My friend caught my eye: instinctively, shyly.
We felt heady; sensing life swell with new meaning.
We spoke unsteadily, tongues sticking drily.
For a moment something nearly happened between us:
Two small boys flustered by a chain reaction of lust.
An unspoken something which wasn’t mentioned again
But we were changed forever by what we’d witnessed.
We’d been stopped in our tracks by an act of love,
And distracted from our causing an explosion.
From then on desire, and lovemaking, and bonding
Trumped every gun’s glamour and confusion.