I’ll trade you (commended poem: 2015 competition)

For the prayers you learned from your mother, kneeling together

in childhood’s extended Nativity scene

I’ll trade you a coral-bound missal once owned by a queen.

 

For the motherly ‘Miss’ with the sheltering bosom and in-control bun

who taught you to add and to read with Little Red Ruth

I’ll trade you ten years of TED talks on subjects like goodness and truth.

 

For the scent of your village post-office – the stationery, greetings cards, stamps,

colouring books, sealing wax and your first steel-nibbed pen

I’ll trade you a daily supply of Proust’s madeleines.

 

For the drawers of brown sugar and rice at the grocer’s

with the half-hidden scoops and cane-seated chairs

I’ll trade you a Fortnum & Mason’s account and an option on shares.

 

For that moment your friend stood heroically leaning

against a tree by the stream on the day he was nine – just leaning, just nine –

I’ll trade you De Beer’s richest diamond mine.

 

For that brown ten bob note that the shyest of uncles

would furtively slip you on birthdays

I’ll trade you a pension with index-linked raise.

 

For the time when the smouldering firework blew up

in your hand and your aunt volunteered as the gentlest nurse

I’ll trade you a medical mission with funds to disburse.

 

For that perfectly round basalt stone that your granny brought back,

somewhat illegally, from her one trip to Delphi

I’ll trade you degrees in Greek and Geology.

 

For the days that you stayed home in bed and said you were ‘not very well’,

observing the sunlight exploring the ceiling

I’ll trade you a year of retreat in Nepal or Darjeeling.

 

For your father’s backyard with the overhung pond

where you fought with canoes-full of roaring headhunters

I’ll trade you amazing adventures in Rio’s favelas –

 

(all paid for, plus girlfriend and book deal with Granta) –

 

I’ve told you, I’ll trade you, I’ll trade you, I’ll trade you.