Freshwater pearl mussel
by Mark Andrew Heathcote

It was better than any stupid gerbil
Yes, it sounds pretty cruel I now admit
I didn’t feed it, and I never once cleaned it
I had it 2yrs on the bedroom window sill.
But it did pretty well, and it was special
I prized it from the moment I found it;
And hoped it had taken in a bit of grit
I knew it would survive — it was primaeval.

I’d watch it for hours at night one-footing round
A plastic, oblong tank beneath the moonlight:
I collected earth and blanket weed poolside
Everything was fine in its little compound.
But that said one day I returned home from school…
And this silly fool threw it out to get at me.
“There’ll be no more of that it’s my rule
Being my stepfather, he set his decree
There are no more prized possessions here for me.”

PHOTO: Mussel.



Well, I was born in Withington, Manchester, one of three children; I was the eldest and the only boy. We lived in a three-bed terrace house with no bathroom or indoor toilet. I lived there until the age of nine and was a quiet and unhappy child, but that changed when the family moved to the countryside, where I then had the freedom to explore nature at first-hand. I spent much of my free time climbing trees and swimming in lakes and rivers, making rope swings, stuff like that. I was looked on as a kind of Tarzan figure, that’s how all other kids saw me. I was never academic and was years behind all the other children at school. I struggled badly in high school and didn’t learn a great deal. I left school at age 16, taking dead-end jobs on local farms and then in factories. I left home at age 17 —  by then, there had been a messy divorce and relationships weren’t good all round and haven’t improved all that much since. So I moved back to Manchester, where I’m still residing now and have done ever since. I’m a father of five and for the past 14 years I’ve be employed as a learning disability support worker. I write a lot of poetry in my free time and enjoy music and gardening.