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A Romantic Poem 

The Runaway

A Country Tale in Verse

I was surprised when you left me
But, now that I recall, you did leave me some clues.


We were out for a drive, you and I,
Passing a neighbour's house,
You were sat – as usual – on the passenger seat of my pick-up

Taking it all in.

(The journey, that is.)
You glanced over to the house and to the farm as we drew nearer – for just a little too long, I now realise.


Your gaze fell back onto the road ahead and I could tell.
You were wondering,

Had I noticed?

We've always enjoyed our times together
So, you deciding to take off left a hole -
A void that, up until now, only you were able to fill.
I should say I hoped we both enjoyed our times together.
I know I did.

I guess you didn't. Not as much.
Not so much that you wanted to stay.

It's our walks I recall most vividly,
Especially in the winter. Those were special days.
Neither of us seemed to mind the cold -
Wrapped up against the wind, the snow, but not the rain.
Me, with my thermal layer, cotton shirt, woolen sweater, and long oilskin,
You with your extra thick winter coat, 
Its inner lining a protection against the wet.

Do you remember that particular day, just after heavy snow
When we ventured just a little too far, until it was late afternoon?
In the middle of winter, evenings came early in the day,
Not long after what well-to-do people would call 'lunch-time'.
We had to get back before dark. 
Unlike now, then there were others -
others who would worry about us if we were late.


The river is too wide here, I had said, even though we can see  our cabin on the other side.
Our only option is the bridge, but it's half an hour away.
You disagreed.
You didn't actual say you disagreed.

How could you?
You merely took off without a thought. Across the ice.
I knew it would save us an hour.
We'd be home before dark. In minutes in fact.

So I followed.

 

Your light frame skipped across the newly-formed ice.
The river would have been flowing slowly underneath, 
If you could actually see its movement. Its current.
Soon you were on the opposite bank – waiting. Impatient.
I was half way across when the ice broke - falling in.

Soaked.
I could see you were worried.


You paced up and down the bank, unable to help.

It was the cold I feared most, rather than any drowning,
After all, my feet found the river bottom. And safety.
But I was chest deep in water. 
(The water was surprisingly warmer than the chill air. )
Breaking more ice, I forced my way across and soon reached the opposite bank.


You were pleased to see me – safe – and showed it.
We did make it home before dark after all, keen to be warm again - before my wet clothes could take their toll.

It was an episode I was keen to put behind us.

It was spring before we took that same route by the river.
Until then I never knew our walks really registered with you,
Not as memories, at least.

But they clearly did.
You proved it to me even without my asking. 

You paused at that very same spot.
The spot where I had slipped through the ice - and you hadn't.


You skipped down the bank to the water's edge, looking across to the other side.

And remembered.
Or perhaps you just wanted a quicker way home.
If I could read your thoughts you might be saying,
You waded across before, why not today?

And, this time, you could carry me.

 
I could;

But I wouldn't;

So I didn't.

Evenings, too, were special times we shared.
Again, particularly in the winter.
The shorter days (daylight) for chores - hunting, collecting firewood - meant longer nights (and darkness) for resting, reading, and reflection.
The warmth of the fire was matched by the warmth of thought, for each other – since we faced life here alone. 

Just we two.

So, to see you leave like that was a surprise as well as a disappointment, given the bond between us.
At least I know where you are, and who you have gone to.
And I am thankful that you waited for the days to lengthen,
Before you made your escape.  

If that's what this was.

It was the slam of the screen door that told me when you left.


Looking out the window I could see the direction you took.
Then, as I stood, high on top of the hillside overlooking our cabin - now my cabin - I could trace your distant progress.
Unfaltering, you made your way to your ultimate destination.
It was to our neighbour's farm.

Then it came to me.

Of course. You were his companion before you became mine.
It was a much larger farm. You had sisters there. And brothers.

You were born there.
It was those same siblings you had spotted that day. 
Yours, on the day we happened to be passing, having missed our turning and taken a different route.
I only have myself to blame.

But at least now I understand.
You were so young when you left him, and them. For me.
But your pangs of loss, the need to return, stayed with you.

It doesn't help me come to terms with my loss.


I miss you more than I could ever make you understand but it has left me with one most powerful resolve:

I will never trust another Border collie.

~ *** ~

Editor's note:

This poem is inspired by, and dedicated to, my beloved collie cross, Bess.

I still remember my sister bringing her home that very first time - she was riding pillion on her boyfriend's (soon to be husband) motorbike. She had Bess on her lap. In a box. She was just a pup.

Bess suffered from travel sickness from that day on.

I would have been five years old and was eighteen (she was 13 years old) when she was run over and killed. That was by a British Road Services HGV outside our house on the Lutterworth Road, Blaby - in Leicestershire.

Dad buried her behind the garage. The next season he still planted his usual row of runner beans over the same spot.

In her early days, Bess used to have fits. We lived on the ten acre market garden (Hillview Nurseries) Dad had started in the 1950's.

 

We would watch Bess race around in circles time and again until Dad would eventually catch her. He then put her into a hessian sack (the large size we used to bag up Brussel sprouts) where he would keep her in darkness, soothing her gently on his lap until she was calm before releasing her.

After a few of these 'sessions' she was cured of fitting.

We lived a mile or so outside the main village - and school. Outside of school hours Bess would be my only 'playmate'. 

We had our own version of 'hide and seek' in the country - to keep me amused, and maybe Bess, too. We had a dog collie cross, Bob, by whom Bess had two litters - eight the first time; seven the second time.

As you might expect, this young seven or eight year old loved having pups around, but Dad had to sell them: bitches were sold for eighteen shillings; dogs for a guinea (twenty one shillings) each.

That's ninety pence and one pound five pence in today's money.

Well after we left the market garden to live in the village itself, Bess and I would take off and explore the countryside around Blaby - even in the depths of winter with fog, snow, and ice around.

Before you ask - yes - Bess did lead me across the frozen river on one of those expeditions, and I did get soaked - but only to my waist! The 'river' was Whetstone Brook.

I hope you have enjoyed both the myth (the poem) and the reality.

It also helped me to flavour certain passages in Finding Rose and Rose: The Missing Years.

John Morey - Author

Brian and Me

The author, John Morey - behind his brother sat on a little Fordson Minor tractor at Blaby Rose Gardens - courtesy of their manager, Dutchman Mr Hanraads.

This has nothing to do with the poem opposite, other than as a reminder of the author's connection to the Blaby countryside when living at Hillview Nurseries in the 1950s.

 

Mr Hanraads was a kind man, and is featured briefly in The Black Rose of Blaby and who - or so it is said - he did actually develop and cultivate a black rose.

Blaby Rose Gardens was opposite Hillview Nurseries - but both were sacrificed when the Blaby By-Pass was developed.

This sort of event, although not remarkable, is captured in the 'Memoir' bonus section in READ MY SHORTS, partly as a gesture so that those things that shaped the Blaby of the day, are not lost.

Read my shorts - poems and short stories by J S Morey

An anthology of poems, short stories, memories and recollections of the author's earlier life in a typical English village - Blaby, Leicestershire.

'The Runaway' - opposite - is just one of those featured in READ MY SHORTS.

Other poems and short stories cover a mixture of topics, including The Coal-miner's Son, an uplifting tale set in a depressing and oppressive mining  town in Kentucky, similar to the one in John Prine's 'Muhlenberg County'.

'Peregrine the Peregrine' is a true event, fictionalised so that the birds actually talk. A moral tale.

'Paul' and 'He turned out all right' are based on real people who John actually knew, and whose stories offer lessons to us all.

'The Leather Bottle' is a romance with a difference, where strong emotions cut through even the most dense mists of time.

'Lifesaver' is two stories - true events - in one, about unsung heroism.

'Grandad' is proof that we are all just a few steps - connections - away from someone famous. Again true.

'Air and Water' is the author's nod towards the Green Movement - but without political interference!

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