Heather Shakespeare

The Code


They made it very simple so
the smallest child could understand,
drilled into us the words that kept us safe
instilled in us the rhythm and the pace
– Think – stop – wait – look – listen –

They told us we must bide our time,
stand still and steady at the edge,
linger long enough to notice what
approached, take it slow and only
go when all was clear.

Or was it just the fear that held us
there, stopped us running out to court
disaster for a plastic ball that slipped
our grasp, stopped us cutting short
our little lives for a plaything?

And now, constrained to stop again
against our will, we stand and watch
what happens if we do not care,
if caught up in the game, the thrill, the win
we look away and fail to see what lies
ahead, as whoops and shouts drown out
the green and quiet earth’s refrain:
– Think – stop – wait – look – listen –

From Even In The Shadow – Mole Valley Poets Anthology 2020