The old woman sits by the fire and her rocking chair creaks.
The dark midnight blanket on her lap is heavy silk.
She embroiders stars onto it. Over and over, the gold threads dancing with the needle in her hands.
At her feet the little boy watches; his hair unruly, his smile like a light,
Clutching the little wooden train his father made.
He looks up to where she has bewitched the marbles.
They are all different sizes, and they float,
Above the blanket,
Turning in elliptical orbits,
While she dilligently works.
The largest one glints like the orange of a beacon, like the yellow of a flower,
Holding itself steady.
The others turn and glide around it whilst it burns.
The one he loves the most
Blue and green and white.
It never ceases to keep moving.
Not far away, a smaller silver marble follows in its path.
The evening draws itself in and the lamps begin to flicker.
She works until her fingers ache and she falls asleep where she rocks. Her glasses slipping slightly on her nose. A snore escaping, her breath as slow and heavy as the bellows of an organ.
His mother comes to fetch him, and his eyes close tight, like shutters on this day.
When he is older and the woman is long dead,
He will come home from school
On a hot summers afternoon,
To drink cold fruit juice from the carton and bite an apple right down to its core.
He'll go to see those marbles
Spinning where she left them.
Her work abandoned on the seat,
The needle neatly tucked into the silk,
A final star half stitched
And he will sit and wonder why they never stop.
What magic keeps them going?
He cannot touch them. Nobody ever has.
He would need to try and break a deep enchantment to take one in his grasp.
Then, when wondering leads nowhere, he will get up and run. His hair still wild, his knees now grubby, to find his bicycle; to whoop and ring the bell as he races down the street. Forgetting everything except the wind streaming through his clothes.
The hill calls him onwards, to where he can take his feet off the pedals and fly.
His mother will be cooking while his father tends the roses in the beds beside the lawn.
And here, on his small and favourite marble,
A girl no bigger than a full stop
In the great book of history,
Will wake and write