Mike East’s Misstep

A lesson in early childhood about the fragility of life.




Police examine the lorry that struck Mike. 1949
Police examine the lorry that struck Mike in 1949. An image from the local newspaper.


We learnt about friendship
talking as we walked to the infants’ school,
like the others I had envied in their noisy groups.
Steeping over  bad luck in the pavement joints
or holding our coat collar after missteps
until a four- legged animal was seen,
or your rule – an ambulance,
which overrode mischance.
Despite  our high stepping
malevolence  still struck.
You never made it to the middle school,
we parted somewhere between the Co-op
and the road’s edge that afternoon
– no ambulance, just a builder’s truck,
then afterwards I walked alone.

You have been my yard-stick
to measure the relish of existence
and value its experience:
rude games with older girls,
the crass certainty of youth,
anger, frustration, intimacy,
marriage, middle merging to old age.
The ‘otherness’ of foreign travel:
the crowded bazaar in Mashad,
the rising sun at Chott el Jerid,
Costa Rica – and Montezuma’s Oropendula,
Capybara and Anaconda in Venezuela’s marshes.

Africa, Bermuda, China,
I touched my collar and brought you there,
whenever life presented wonder
you could never know
after  that Wednesday misstep
sixty-four years ago.


There is another poem of Mike’s death  that recalls events a few days later.


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