When I was five I went to school for the first time
and Miss Curly told me that pencils were only for big people.
When I was lifted up onto the swings it was by hands
taller than anything I could think of and every time I shot up
skywards I knew and forgot how to fly. When I was five
I was a cat sometimes and an alien sometimes and sometimes
I was a fairy and when it rained the backyard
grew like a bean sprout in my hand.
I gave flying lessons
at primary school: squatting up there on the concrete blocks,
every molecule of me shouting to flout the rules that say
a girl can only skid along the run-up and go no further. And when
I jumped I chased that field like it was clouds, I chased it
like the idea of being a mermaid even after I got out of the pool
and like dancing in the front garden in a skirt and odd shoes hoping
the neighbours would call the news and report a visitor from outer space.
I thought that life was a race, that every hill was a ready-steady
for my one speed bike and that the answer to every single
religious question ever asked was angels.
And colours were
something when I was five. They licked at the planet
like a tongue on a postage stamp that had been somewhere
I had never been but badly wanted to go. They were fruit
salad on the beach at sunset and an ice cream van waiting
on the doorstep and dolphins before dolphins were appropriated
by hippies. Seeing them was hearing that Mr. Whippy song
while the world whisked the chromosomes along.
Now I’m twenty-nine
and sipping at the whiskey that used to be all three flavours
of fizzy drink and I’m looking at this painting. There’s something in here
that says five to me, something that’s alive as five in the shape
of it, in the scrape and smear of oil on the canvas that sits
like a tinfoil pirate’s hat on the dimpled head of my soul. I look
at it and think about a child: about opening up and letting in,
about a shout at dawn that digs up the lawn but somehow leaves the flowers.
I think about aliens and cats and fairies and scary things, things
that become and things that stray; a bag of skin taller than
it ever was before and the shore that gets smaller
every time you swim away.