Leaving home

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Leaving home

Judging by your expression, as we sat side-by-side on the edge of the just-made bed/You needed us to stay, just a touch longer than the other parents/Who with a cool wave through car windows bless nonchalant offspring/Before crunching down the gravel track to empty nests./Precariously balanced, we toy with words/And weigh the spaces between our sentences./Unsure how to express what we want to say/Not wanting to lose this moment/This build-up of 18 years/Memories flood back/The tip and glitter of stabilisers on that sunny lurch/Across Hengistbury Head, gulls wheeling overhead/The first piano lesson, knees tucked tightly together/In nylon shorts, more chatter than playing/The snapshots of you on the hills, that photographed/Familiar grimace, the same three weeks ago/In the cold Langdale Pikes as we ended an era/The nights sat on the bed reading stories. You a little too big/For this joint exploration into another world/But still your head easing into my neck/And here years later, on the university bed/We run the risk of meaning too much/But saying too little/I ask how long you would like us to stay: “Forever!”/You respond and we both laugh, me roaring to cover my fear/You shyly like I haven’t seen you do for years/We have a final walk around the campus/A snatched ice cream and finally next to the car/You tell your mum off because she supposed to cry/And isn’t, and then the big man hug comes/You look down at me, taller now/And, knowing that the tables have turned/You check on me as I slip/From your grip into the driving seat/And I sit there, the windscreen wobbling with the image/Of you fumbling with the new plastic key code/Before you finally disappear from sight/Into the new hall door, of your new life.