When I Went Back To
I.M. John Michell
When I went back to
It was 1978
And the signs which read “no hippies served”
Were ten years out of date
And all the folks on the hill were tourists;
None was smoking grass
And the biggest high was to watch the sky
And the little clouds go past
And my mind went back
As I thought it would
To the last time I was there
To a girl my age in a gypsy skirt
With long dark straggly hair
Kept from her eyes with a beaded band
Like the red Indians wear
Who woke up from the night she’d spent
Under the open skies
With beads of sweat on her upper lip
And a druggy look in her eyes.
She said, I dreamed of
It was very small and green
And all the folk in the history books
Had come in a time machine
Tents had been raised in the meadows,
Bright with cloth of gold.
All of us there were happy
None of us were old
And one I knew came close to me
Holding a daisy chain
He put it on my hair. We kissed
And then we kissed again
And walked among the famous dead.
I saw with my own eyes
Of captains, priests and spies
And Charles the haughty, martyr king
And Charles his son the rake
And all the tiresome German kings
Brought over by mistake-
But when the pipe began to play
And the tambourine to shake
It was Shakespeare with his Anne,
William and Catherine Blake
Who led the dancing. Off they went
And we all followed after,
Filling the lazy afternoon
With witty talk and laughter.
And so the vale of Avalon
Became a dancing floor.
We danced through
And through the Abbot’s door
Up the aisle of his roofless church
And round and round the tor.
Just as it did for Joshua
The sun stood still above.
Then it looked down on slaughter
As now it looked on love.
His eyes were green as emerald,
His hair was the softest brown,
His velvet coat was blue and red.
His lip was fringed with down,
But when I asked his name of him
He sadly bowed his head
“In the world where you body lies
The cock has crowed,” he said.
He dropped my hands, he stepped away.
There came a change in the weather
The sky went black the wind was full
Of scraps of flower and feather.
Thunder spoke like a cannonade.
Raindrops fell like lead.
The piping turned to a long high squeal
The dancers broke and fled
And when I caught him by the sleeve
All that I held was air.
The sun came out on the fields again
And nobody was there.
She hitched her rucksack on her back
The larks were singing shrill
Up in the top of the summer sky.
“See you,” I said . “You will
But maybe not in this life,” she said-
And walked off down the hill.