I'd heard horror stories in the playground, seen embarrassment and tears.
Shared in secrets that were passed around like candy.
Not for me.
All the messing about and the working it out. I didn't want Bad Sex by misadventure.
Like you said.
I waited. Not as long as the good girls, but longer than my mates.
You were worth it.
I was a bundle of nerve endings and inexperience but it was perfect, you were brilliant.
Just the thought of you sends shivers down my spine.
My best kept secret.
I wonder about you, at times. About your life, what you do, if you're happy or feeling blue.
Your children: Would I know them in the street? I guess now they're all grown up.
Just like me.
you’re a child.
Feeling poorly, snuggled up on the sofa. Or
Saturday night in front the telly.
Or walking to market.
Or along country lanes to the car-boot.
A downpour, diamonds on glass. Or
a shower with rainbows.
Or mist-glittered clothes.
Or blazing sunrise.
Calpol knocked back with sweet tea. Or
Panda Pop and crisps.
Or flask filled with tap-water.
Or bottle of squash unfreezing all its flavour first.
her telling, in her voice, with her
rounded southern burr,
most of the stories are chilling.
Most of the characters
are weak at best. Evil at worst.
A few of the extras sparkle.
They are generous. Kind. Brave.
Non judgmental. (sadly these disappear between chapters)
half way through her story (but you don’t know that then, to you it’s near the end)
she introduces a character.
Symbol of hope.
the child is You.
not knowing that.
A little blood, and then nothing.
Waited. But there were no cramps, no sweats.
No shrimp-like cell cluster.
She recalled the dates of this downfall: Of a
rape no law’d recognise.
Bus drivers’ strike.
Consultation with a grumpy-old-doctor-man.
"... you’re probably too late. Try an
Aspirin between your knees next time…”
This is how she told her love to me. Measured
against in-spite-of, not by because.
Knee length skirt, cotton cami,
lace shrug, and heels.
Fair skin, blonde hair, blue eyes. Very pretty.
My children edge past her, past the Other Women,
on their way to the park.
Son takes a second look, then hurries on. Crocs squeak
through sodden grass.
Baggy jeans soak up puddles of mud.
Typical twelve-year-old boy.
plastered in cut-grass, flushed-pink and grinning.
Daughter cradles the ball, and
crows about winning, while
The Pretty One, the Other Women,
alternate tuts with
but The Pretty One,
A uniform, a badge.
A florescent jacket.
(Worn with pride?)
Law isn’t applied
to its keepers.
My skin wears need. Like
static on an old t.v. screen-
willing you to touch.
But don’t touch me, OK?
Don’t look me in the eye,
and don’t ask.
Don’t ask 'cause I’d say yes,
when I should say no.
I’d say yes and I’d mean it.
But the whole world ‘d fall apart
Marilyn Monroe (who
lived next door, and swore more
than anyone I know)
reckoned blondes had all the fun.
It didn’t seem so to me,
when her old man was home.
She was as glamorous as
our Mum was dowdy.
Her lot lived on freezer-food
and fizzy, while our Mum
slogged over a crappy gas-stove,
and washed-up without gloves on.
Marilyn Monroe told
our Mum that she should fight.
Our Mum gave, to Marilyn Monroe,
secret recipes for dog-food stew
and koi carp pie.
Green-apple pings off of a shelf,
just misses his ear,
watermelon scores a direct hit
to the back of his throat.
… askin’ for it... the tart...
Woken mid rant, we don’t hear the rest,
Straight-faced to the telly,
pierce the backs of our heads-
Silently we pray
to the gods of Friday night
and sour candy, that
he’ll nod off and start snoring
before one of us pops
into a neon-snot-mess of giggles.
It’s taken too long
and we’ve eaten half our ammunition, but
he’s at it again. We grin.
Retrieve pink and green missiles
from 'round the chair legs,
to what he’d do to her.
let your paper-heart bleed
for the poor.
But when the
conversation starts, they dominate.
Worm their way into every sentence, every silence.
Every caught breath, exhaled pause.
Names, nice-to-meet-yous, passed round with sandwiches and tea.
Hole-riddled autobiographies, wadded out with circumstance and need.
Explaining themselves, defending their actions. In turn. And I?
Have never felt so young.
To my left, and working clockwise: Affair-with-the-boss, Heart-condition, High-risk-of-genetic-defects,
and back to me. (Boyfriend-has-two-kids-wants-no-more)
He noticed that I’m pregnant.
We chew our way through sandwiches. Different coloured fillings, no flavour- choked down with lukewarm tea.
We know it’s a test.
We have to talk, smile, eat, drink, laugh (not manically)
if we're to go home.
I can’t do it.
I want to cry. But I’ve been told off for that already (curled up on a trolley, examining bloodied fingers)
I drift, I think.
Jump out of my skin when she speaks to me.
You must eat she says.
You must eat.
I search for myself in their eyes,
re-make myself from fragments and reflections I find there (Four parts child, one part bitch)
It’s OK I tell her. It’s OK.
On my way home I’ll get a Happy Meal.
I’m collecting the toys.
What’ll happen when you die? Will I lose you again? That would mean finding you. Undoing years, unpicking frayed edges fixed with the wrong coloured yarn. I see you at funerals. At Mum’s you were angry. So was I- but I concealed it. Played numb. At Dad’s you were shaking. I thought your nerves were finally shot. Or that the little boy, naked standing in snow, washing his clothes after a petit-mal fit, was still shivering and waiting for Mum. Then I noticed you weren’t drinking. Said you’d been stitched (again) by police- who’ve always had it in for you. Like they pass this hatred down through rank and generation, onto every town you’ve ever lived in? So that explained the orange-juice-and-lemonade made tidal in your hand. I want to rewind you. You were trouble, of course- but you were nice-trouble and I loved you. I looked up to you. I didn’t see the Big-Brave-Wall you were building. Or the things that made us not-normal. When I was born you were thirteen and already broken. When I was old enough to understand Mum had gained an upper hand, and you always sided with Dad. Even though you showed signs of knowing that he was the bastard that fucked us up? I didn’t get it as bad. She learned. Mistakes made on you weren’t made on me. For a start she never left me with him. I was less fucked. Or maybe not. Maybe just differently-fucked and quicker to heal. My first crush? The copper who called for you, countless times- while I curled m'self round m' cornflakes, burning- too scared to move or turn, rotisserie style, in front of the blue-gas flame. And somewhere in me, not so deep, that teenage ju, that one less-mended who danced-all-weekend-and-slept-where-she-landed, still boasts: Had him y’know. Another notch on a well-and-truly nibbled ‘post. I cried at Dad’s funeral, but I wasn’t crying for him. Why would I?
Tethered and bound by maraging steel-
feel nothing- bar a need to unfeel.
Few words- gagged. Rubber'd tastes,
sound the same. Chewy, jaw-achingly safe.
Fettered by syrupy curves
of well-handled prose. Exposed,
prone. Bound to bleed
maraschino in free-verse.
Words spill beneath breath-
promise or threat?
A deathbed-machine mourns, briefly-
before it’s switched off.
*Reaching out [to you] with hands
that kneaded dough before dawn,
and bleached kitchen worktop while
bread rose in the oven.
My skin carries a chill brought in
from the garden- And
my hair, damp under the elastic
I tied it back with, smells of
These old clothes
have been folded with lavender,
for too long, in a drawer-
And the knees of my jeans are black,
with fine-foam-dust, from carpet
I’m part-way-through fitting.
My toes are cold and my feet are grubby
‘cause I didn’t wear shoes
when I hung out the washing.
An eighteen month ban and two-thousand-pounds fine?
Don’t accept them.
Take the tamper-evident bag
Re-wind blood stains from her clothes,
fractures from her bones.
Un-stop her heart from beating,
un-puncture her lungs.
Take from her the understanding
that she’s about to die.
Un-impact on our lives.
Don’t walk away
with barbed question hooks.
leaves me too tangled
Too tired to care.
Exclamation marks hurt-
Long strokes do nothing to sooth.
to trip me up as I move.
Fingering the difference
between his round-mouthed-O
A slow, steady discontent
down my spine.
cross-legged on prickly cord,
picking frayed edges
that don’t quite meet the wall-
stealing pimply-glassed heat and
pretending to live
in a house, where warmth exists
beyond window-spills and
a broken gas oven.
She’s cracking eggs.
“What are those?” she asks, pointing to white and red specks in the bowl.
Once I’d have told her it was shell-
but she’s too old for that now
“Where the eggs started to grow”
“Oh” she says, staring intently at a gooey mess in the palm of her hand.
I finish weighing out the ingredients,
wipe her clean-
“Which colour icing do you want?”
She’s carefully spooning cake mix into bright-striped paper cases.
“Can we make angel cakes instead?”
I go into the kitchen to pre-heat the oven,
steal two minutes silence.
“No. We'd be cutting up perfect little cupcakes to make the wings”
I can’t tell her why
I don’t do Angels in December.
Clamber from bed sheets,
tangled. Catch her
tight. Hold her
safe. Curl up with her
in the soft grey light