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  • Writer's pictureMark Bird

I Didn't Dare Go - a poem about finding your strength and growing up as the child of an alcoholic

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

I went to see Lemn Sissay at The Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith on Sunday. He was incredible; a total inspiration. One minute I was guffawing, the next I was rediscovering long forgotten corners of consciousness.

As he read his final poem, "Suitcases and Muddy Parks," I held back the tears. That poem lit up my childhood receptors like a 70's pinball machine. I left with wonder sparked and portals to past emotions blown wide open.

Back at home, I couldn't stop thinking about Lemn Sissay's poem about childhood and the emancipation from it. I remembered a poem I had written (but written off as silly) years before. I opened it on my computer, emotions all shook up and read it with new-old eyes. Even though the context of Sissay's poem was different, something about my afternoon with him, led me straight to it. I loved much about my childhood but this poem wasn't about that. This poem was about the sad, scared and lonely times of being a helpless child and the child of an alcoholic... I think.

But like "Suitcases and Muddy Parks," hope rained on despair and success was fertilised by failure.

I dared to share, "I Didn't Dare Go" on Twitter. (See end of blog). I was overwhelmed by the response. People liked it! Even poets I deeply respect liked it. After spending years thinking it was embarrassingly personal and self-indulgent, I finally liked it too. Thanks #LemnSissay.

A hopeful alien hiding behind bedroom drawers

I Didn't Dare Go

An alien lived for a short while

behind my bedroom drawers.

He begged I visit planets with it,

fly to unknown moons with it,

spy on UFOs with it.

But I didn’t dare go.

He kept me awake, going on

about worlds I’d never seen.

He chattered on all night he did,

spun me tales of peace he did,

funfairs on the stars he said.

But I didn’t dare go.

He leapt from the shadows and grumbled.

His eyeball rolled then stared.

He whispered that the time had come,

I must get out of bed and come,

Must trust in things beyond the sun.

But I didn’t dare go.

He sighed and then sprung to the window.

Tapped his cosmic watch.

He warned it's my last chance tonight,

to meteor-ride through starry nights

to fleet and soar on wonder flights.

But I didn’t dare go.

Cosmic Watch

He launched himself skywards and spiraled,

and stellar flaking trails

fell and melted on my eyelids.

I slid behind the drawers and hid,

I didn’t want to be this kid.

I wanted to go!

But it was too late.

Then, lasers light-sabered the darkness

and found my crying place.

Something grabbed my hand and cheered,

zapped away the fear I feared,

zoomed me to the future years...

Where I dared do anything

and go anywhere.

All the time,




©2009 Mark Bird

Child and alien flying to the future
Flying To The Future

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