SPOTLIGHT: ‘The Second of August’ by Peter Donnelly

The 22

I’ve never done it the other way round –
Boroughbridge, Aldborough, Marton, Ouseburn,

Whixley, Hammerton, Hessay then York.
I know how it would seem – different,

like the canal walk backwards,
starting from Littlethorpe. You’d have to look

to your right for the entrance to Newby Hall,
to your left for Aldborough’s maypole.

It would be uphill to the post office in Green Hammerton,
before the descent into town. Perhaps more passengers

would go all the way, does anyone ever
ask for a return? I both have and have not

seen the view before, like the cathedral from another angle,
the room behind me in the mirror,

or my upstairs windows
which I can’t see through from outside.


There were never bananas
like those we had
sliced on our cereals
for breakfast each morning,
washed down with gunpowder tea.
Bran flakes for me
have since tasted
of my nineteenth year.
You both ate three rounds
of wholemeal toast and marmalade,
couldn’t understand how
I would just have one.
You didn’t find it odd
that I ate my cereals without milk,
my toast without butter,
or if you did you never said so,
never forgot. You think
you introduced me to gunpowder tea
and you did, but what you really started in me
was the idea of bananas for breakfast.

The Second of August

I’d never heard of Finzi
till my grandad took me
to a concert in what I now know
was St Wilfrid’s Church.
We got lost on the way back
as well as wet. He knocked
on a random door at 11 pm
to ask the way. It turned out
to be the home of a doctor
whose daughter he’d taught –
he knew everyone in Harrogate.
It’s strange how I remembered it
last night going to bed,
then today discovered
it was exactly nineteen years ago;
that Finzi once lived in the town,
studied at Christ Church
where Grandpa’s headstone lies.
Had I not had an interview that day
for a job I didn’t get,
I wouldn’t have stayed with Grandpa
for what turned out to be the last time.
When I switched the radio on yesterday
and the clarinet concerto in C minor was playing,
it would have meant nothing to me.
I don’t know what I’d have bought my mother
for her sixtieth birthday,
but it wouldn’t have been that CD.


They’re supposed to come
to the country in winter
not to the city in summer,
yet I am woken at 4 am
by their screeching.

It’s as if they know
they are in the wrong place,
lost, can’t find their way home,
like the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw
pleading ‘Let me in.’

Their wings are lit up by sunlight
in blue sky in the evenings
of early July, like goldfish
as they fly past my window
which I watch like a tank.


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