FRESH FROM THE INKWELL

3 POEMS FOR VALENTINE'S DAY

February 14, 2014

Tags: valentine, crush, card, mystery, teenage angst, romance, love, boyfriend, adolescence, first love, British traditions, England, memoir

IN SEARCH OF MY SEA SCOUT, 1964

[In England, the first single person of the opposite sex who spoke to you on Feb 14 would be your Valentine, but it was too late after 12 noon. This poem is dedicated to the memory of Brian Kemp. RIP]

St. Valentine’s Day. No card through my door,
but if I play my cards right Brian will be mine by noon.
Saturday, no school. I stroll along the beach.
Is he at the Sea Scouts’ hut? No. Must try his house.
Boarding the bus I think, So far so good, no male
has spoken to me yet. What about the conductor?
Fares please! It’s Chris from India. He doesn’t count,
being already married to the girl next door. No sign
of Brian, as I linger at his gate in Lake Green Road.
His mum comes up the street with a shopping bag.
She eyes me suspiciously under her headscarf
before going inside—to cook his lunch, I presume.
The church clock strikes eleven, twelve. Too late.
I’ve got no Valentine, unless you count Chris.
He is quite dishy. Or has Brian been at my house
hand-delivering my card? Fat chance! Still,
you never know. Last week at school he said
hello and put his bike in the rack next to mine.

© Hazel Spire

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THE MYSTERY CARD, 1963

[In England, Valentine cards are not exchanged among friends or family members as in the U.S. They are sent anonymously to someone in whom you have a romantic interest.]

Someone sent me a valentine
With rhymed verse, design hand-painted.
“Who?” squealed jealous friends, guessing
Boys with whom we were acquainted.

“Christopher Nuckley!” they declared,
The brilliant artist in Class 2-D!”
“No, it can’t be him,” I insisted.
“He really isn’t the type for me.”

Back home, I admired my valentine,
Displayed it proudly on the shelf.
No one would know, and I wouldn’t tell,
I made and mailed that card myself.

© Hazel Spire

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MY KNIGHT WITH A CHINK IN HIS ARMOUR

Like a leaky air mattress, the rumor squeaked
along the church hall floor at Girls’ Brigade camp:
Hazel’s got a boyfriend!
No. Who? Tell us all about him, Haze.
Heads drew close to listen
as the name rolled deliciously off my tongue:
Jeremy Knight, from Aylesbury.
Yeah? How d’ya meet him? the girls chorused
like the Shangri La singers in “Leader of the Pack.”
Well, you know my mum runs a B & B?
Uh-huh.
His family stayed with us this summer.
Oh. What’s he like then?
A year older than me, four inches taller,
sandy hair, fashionably long but not scruffy
and sea-green eyes.
Aah. Where did he take you?
Wight City Arcade. We rode on the dodgem cars.
Ooh.
And he kissed me goodnight.
Mmm. When we gonna meet him, Haze?

Incredulous voices,
yet why shouldn’t I have a boyfriend?
Granted I was only thirteen, but
if Celia could hold John’s hand in French class,
if Brian could chase Susan with a beach towel,
if Shirley could gaze at Peter under the stars at the fair,
wasn’t it my turn to fall in love?
Like a smelly gym shoe, the rumor flew
through the girls’ locker room at school:
Hazel’s got a boyfriend!
No. Who? How did ya meet him, Haze?
Tell us all about it.
Heads drew close to listen as I repeated—
embellished—my tale of romance.
Jeremy Knight. He’s gone home now,
but look. He sent this letter.

From an envelope with a smudged postmark
I produced the evidence—
a polite note telling how much the Knights
enjoyed their stay on the island,
especially my mum’s blackberry pie.
They took this snap of me and Jeremy at the station,
I added, brandishing a very dark photograph.
Fingers grabbed, mascara’d lashes blinked at it.
Can’t see a thing, said Frances, disappointed.
I sighed. No, it didn’t come out, for some reason.
So, when do we get to see him, Haze?
I don’t know. Perhaps in the half-term holiday?

But they never would meet Jeremy Knight,
once he was safe on that train to Aylesbury,
off to school on the mainland, living forever fresh,
flaxen-haired and lovable, but untouchable
in my over-zealous, ever-jealous,
febrile, fertile imagination.

© Hazel Spire