The towers are icons
that drip with crests and graffiti
like the willow tree’s branches
passing by the moat, under whose shade
they walk – the mother and young daughter
and father who skulks, kicking stones
from loose-chip paths into the water.
He walks a foot or two behind, winking
an eye from the sun as it flares up
And he talks to them.
He tells his daughter who carried the
shield that droops from the postern.
Of course, she doesn’t listen to him –
she’s talking to her mother as they
wave a tour guide to shake a breeze.
The mother’s giving her advice on lillettes
and correct-fitting bras.
And he talks of arrow-slits and fire-arcs
thinking she’s still his daughter, trying
not to be aware of her sprouting body
or the bra-top she wears.
‘Ooo..look,’ he points at a golden shadow
beneath the water as a fish comes up
to feed before sloping back down.
He’s dropped behind.
He nods ‘hello’ at other day-trippers in
cotton shirts and M&S shorts, kids in
tow who rock around them like gnats
down by the stagnant pool.
The father of that family smiles back, ‘salut.’
So, he thinks to himself.
Mother and daughter keep walking,
they keep talking of the laundry basket
for ‘dirty’ underwear. The father still walks
behind, he’s melted into the background
as the two women share quality time.
‘Ah, yes,’ he says to them, to his daughter
as green-legged moorhens run away from
them, ‘this must have been an important
fortress – used to protect the south coast from
a French invasion. How would you have liked to
have lived then?’ Because he doesn’t know
what else to say.
‘Eh? Eh?’ he has to repeat, ‘what
was that you said?’ as they round
the walls that hang high and blotched
with stains from car emissions. There’s
just a few people who have climbed
the gate towers and look down – families with
young children held up. ‘Do you want to
go up there?’ he asks her, pointing.
She faces her father, ‘no, dad,’ she says,
‘I find it too tiring.’ And he thinks what
else could be said as his wife looks in her purse.
‘I don’t have enough spare change,’ she tells him.
So he takes out the money to pay for a ticket
and they cross over the footbridge.