Saturday, 3 September 2016

A Room

There was a room
looking out on a hilly street with no trees,
on the first floor of a dilapidated Victorian house.
Big room, tiny kitchen, shared bathroom.
Coin feed meter on the landing.

I thought - white, pretty curtains,
square table with a cloth and two chairs in the bay.
A bed that could double as a couch.
Pictures on the wall.
A vase of flowers.

Instead,
mattress on the floor,
chocolate brown walls, uneven and patchy,
the old dirty curtains left at the windows,
tv on the floor, everything on the floor.

Chaotic. I should have run.
But I stayed.
Paddy and John throwing stones at the window at 3am.
Getting up early to cycle to school.
Arriving with a birthday cake with thirty candles.
Making it home. Familiar chaos.
Slipping into it without thought.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

1982 Rehovot

I was in Israel. And I did sing
"Hava Nagila", and danced,
and held hands with Kibbutzniks.
And I did pick oranges,
and grapefruit, but really,
they preferred the boys for that job.
And I did wash the old people
in the old people's house,
even though I had no experience,
just boundless enthusiasm.
And I did work in the synagogue kitchen,
although the old men shouted at me,
told me off for mixing food groups,
(I didn't understand a word.)
And I did look after the children,
in the children's house,
changed nappies on four year olds,
hugged toddlers, sang to babies.
And yes I did drink neat vodka,
supplied by the kibbutz,
with free issue orange juice,
taken from the tap in the factory.
And I did try to meet kibbutzniks,
even though they did everything they could
to keep us apart from THEIR young people,
in case we contaminated them,
with our western ideas, and western ideals.
And yes I did go camping at the weekend,
on the organised trip, in the jeep with army seats,
and camped in some desert,
and watched the nurse from Liverpool
get drunker than drunk, and disappear
into the dunes with first one Israeli,
then two then three.
And I did spend too long on the beach at Ein Gedi,
and I did get sick,
and I did find that this counted for little
in the kibbutz.
And I did work again, after I got better,
serving tea in the old people's home,
until my time was done,
and I could travel on up North to Haifa and Galilee.
And I did learn a lesson, or maybe three.
Sunbathing beside lake Galilee.
Before I came home.
I

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Late in the evening

Late in the evening I'd go out for a jog.
No-one on the streets. Just me and the pavements,
lamposts and parked cars.
Bandana round my head.
I was never very good at running.
But every night I'd go out,
at ten, or a quarter past,
and jog round the block.
A mile or so.
Not scared, in the dark, on my own.
I trusted the city streets.
I knew Sparkhill.
Never took the short cut up the alley,
behind the new houses.
Stuck to the streets and street lamps.
At Showell Green Lane, I was nearly home.
Sometimes slowed down to walk the rest of the way.
Into the house, bandana off, glass of water.
Sometimes a bowl of bran flakes.
Back to my bedroom, radio on,
ready to start my homework.


Sent from my iPhone

Monday, 2 May 2016

Empty Summer

I woke early all summer,
straight out of bed and into the kitchen
in the empty house.
Baked cookies and shortbread.
All kinds of baking laid out on trays.
Too early to call anyone.
I'd go out on my bike,
up to Swanshurst Park, or Trittiford,
with a book in my bag,
and a sketchpad and pencils,
and sit on a bench or the low branch of a tree,
and imagine countryside,
oblivious to the traffic going by.
Then back to the empty house.
Pick up the telephone, see if anyone's up.
Someone's up!
We arrange to meet at the Lido at one.
Back to the kitchen,
make salads and sandwiches,
pack cookies and biscuits and drinks.
The phone rings. Change of plan,
they're not going swimming today,
they're just going to lounge round the house.
Unpack the picnic, eat a sandwich,
try to read a book.
Walk up to Moseley in the afternoon.
Visit the health shop. Browse in Pottery and Pieces.
Walk home again down Anderton Park Road,
imagining the big house my parents almost bought,
and back to the empty house.
Try to read a book.
Wrap up the cakes and biscuits.
Play the piano. Put a record on.
Finally draw the curtains on the day.


Thursday, 21 April 2016

Suicide attempt

Today, an ambulance passed me at the traffic lights,
lights flashing, and I remembered how
we followed the ambulance through every set of lights,
down the Stratford Road,
past Lipton's Grocery and the fish shop,
past The Antelope,
down the hill and past The Mermaid,
leaving the ABC on our right
(where we sometimes queued on a Saturday)
then left onto the number 8 route and past the bus terminus.
I knew things were bad, they must be bad,
us driving through red light after red light,
my dad gripping the steering wheel,
not speaking, not a word.
Through the lights on the Ladypool Road,
through the next set on Moseley Road,
then the long straight stretch downhill and up again,
and into the Accident Hospital.
The ambulance already there,
and my mother lifted out, tied tight to the stretcher.
The boys, white faced, beside her.
A long day of waiting. Sun shining. Dust.
Fish swimming in a tank.
Nobody saying anything. Nobody saying a word.
Endless day, and boredom,
watching the fish swim round and round.
Eventually, a two minute visit,
mother sitting up in bed. Tubes? I think so.
Bloodshot eyes. Everything brittle.
A long drive home, no red lights.
Nobody saying a word.
The sun still shining, and our swimming things
in a heap by the door.

Won't you celebrate with me

Won't you celebrate with me
My chickens are sleeping happily in the garden,
My grandson is sitting by the pond, looking at tadpoles,
My son is playing football wearing a poncho,
My daughter will soon be home from school with my
other daughter who was offered a job today,
And my other son got something published in the Galway Review.
Won't you celebrate with me,
The sun is shining, Victoria Woods died today,
and life is far too short, too precious,
to not celebrate