Marc Woodward

The Ribbon

Out of the loft comes a crumpled scrapbook
with flamingos snipped from World of Wonder
and a class project with paintings by kids
whose crayoned names conjure few faces.
And this: a purple silk sports day ribbon,
a triumphal laureate –a beauty,
the colour of a dead-leg bruise.
Most likely for sack race or egg and spoon.

I was an uncoordinated child:
throw a ball to me and my weedy arms –
useless and white as lilies in the wind –
would be up and waving
a squint contorting my face
as I prepared for a hit in the teeth
two seconds after it had passed.

So this small ribbon, almost certainly
a third place despite its regal shade,
was special to the ten year old me,
a validation, a dopamine high
for a kid picked last from playground line ups
by football captains, those pre-teen marvels
of athleticism whom I now know
were simply born early in the school year..

Shot-silk declaring I could keep an egg
balanced on a wooden spoon while jogging
over new-mown grass and worm casts,
a feat I’d fail at now since this shaking
came upon me unreasonably early
and without levodopa I can’t take tea
unspilled from the kitchen to the lounge.

But perhaps it was the three legged race?
Maybe I was hobbled and shackled
to another, a stronger person
who pulled me to the finishing tape?
I place the stuff back in the box –
not ready to burn it quite yet –
as my wife, steady handed as always,
crosses the line with two mugs of tea.

Marc Woodward is a poet and musician living in the English West Country – an environment much in evidence in his writing. He has been widely published in journals and anthologies. Recent collections include A Fright of Jays (Maquette Press 2015), and Hide Songs (Green Bottle Press 2018). He was recently awarded a writing residency at The Wellstone Center in The Redwoods, Santa Cruz, CA., and his poem ‘Luigi’s Calendar’ (published in Acumen) was shortlisted for the 2018 Bridport Prize.