tolls paid

looking at a family photo

not my family or my photo

the man eyes bright arms around his kids

grandkids all together & smiles

the wife separate by about a foot

half smile side on to show the slim

emphasise the gap between her

the kids grandkids extended family

& I thought long

on her strength in holding herself

apart

to keep anyone else

from crowding in

& the toll that must take

on her

& all the family

a little crowd of nobodies

start of a new school exciting scary days

there is a black & white photograph for the local rag

ten of us eleven year old boys clutching cake

crowding around the headmasters dog

a bemused yellow retriever looking half attentive

the headmaster wags his finger for the strapline

it is against school rules to feed the dog buns or cake

as if we ever would good stuff like that lasted seconds

& I can maybe now name one or two of those kids

the headmaster yes the dog definitely no

but I know for sure we were told we were kids going places

some of us had stardom in mind for sports or university

we were being told great things lay in store for all of us

all we had to was work hard play our part keep straight on

pass the exams fulfil all the group be a team player aims

to become local town lawyers councilmen shopkeepers

not for us the bright lights glitter of fame & fortune

we were groomed for these better things

is what we were told & did

well

some of us anyway