Once Back Then
When school was up I ran to the gate,
I was very young and it was winter rain
And I had forgotten my coat.
I was hungry and waiting, searching every face,
Like one of those little dogs left on the motorway.
One by one the mothers collected their children and took them home.
I was left standing by the gate alone.
Trying to make every stranger's face into her face.
But time went by and she didn't come.
Suddenly I saw them running across the playground,
All those teachers and adults,
Running straight for me.
By now the darkest foreboding was in my heart as they grabbed hold of me.
I fought and struggled and they dragged me back into the school.
They crammed food into my mouth
And wiped my face and blew my nose hard and hurting,
Not gentle the way she did it.
Your mother has left, they said, she won't be coming.
I cried and choked on my tears.
I wouldn't do anything they said,
I was depressed and sullen and I hated them.
And then I saw a shaft of light,
Like a giant halo,
The sun piecing in the winter cloud.
She had changed her mind and returned to collect me,
No matter how much she longed for her freedom,
She couldn't forget me.
I gave her all my love and hugs and forgiveness
But I never trusted her completely again . . . .