Heading off by Tom Dibb


I passed a couple of old blokes the other day.

The sun was having his final check-round;

Making sure that he had remembered everything

Before he dashed off for a night’s holiday somewhere different.


A guy in a wheelchair, ahead of me in the syrupy light,

And his mate beside him, ambling straight-backed –

Unhurried, it was as though they weren’t moving at all,

But instead the world was simply rotating under their feet.


Shuffling along home – two pals sharing the afternoon path.

The wheelchair guy hit a bump as I strode past,

Tipping heavenward alarmingly, as if ready to go,

But his friend stuck out a steadying hand in time.


Nothing fancy. No grand emotion.

Just a pause, a chuckle, and then I was gone on ahead.

Yet the memory stayed with me as I strolled homeward;

The impression left by that hand there to check his fall.


Maybe somewhere down the line that’ll be us,

Leisurely rolling to a halt together

With a hand ready to steady the other

And keep us side by side that little while longer.


I smiled as I thought of us stumbling into the finale together –

The sun pausing with his golden touch

To pat us on the shoulder like an old friend

Before heading off for a new day somewhere else.


About this piece: ‘…it was actually something that happened as I was walking home from uni last year across the field by Castle Leazes. It seemed such a beautiful idea that the guy had so casually saved his friend from falling over backward onto the path and having a fairly serious accident, and it got me thinking about those relationships we have that aren’t based on romance or attraction or anything like that – that are purely about two mates looking out for one another. I wanted the language of the poem to reflect the simplicity of the idea behind it so I deliberately steered clear of any potentially distracting abstractions or metaphors, and I’m happy with the cosy little poem it has become.’ Tom Dibb

About Tom: He grew up in a town called Bridlington on the coast (in East Yorkshire) with his parents, younger sister and two younger brothers. He attended Scarborough College from year 7 through to upper sixth before coming to Newcastle university to study English Lit (currently in his second year). He used to be a keen rugby player, but dislocating his shoulder a couple of years ago has meant that he’ve had to give that up. Unsurprisingly, rugby has been naturally replaced by an interest in poetry. He now splits his time between trying to get through the work for his course and taking full advantage of the Toon’s student social scene – though the latter obviously takes up the majority of his energies. He also works part time as a carer for a local lad with autism, a job he finds hugely rewarding – in large part because his youngest brother is also autistic. When he writes he likes to draw on his own experiences for inspiration. He finds that poetry is most compelling and most effective when it is based in something real.

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