A collection of poems and other writings...

Monday, 29 December 2014

"Lingerie" and Lipstick

A tale of unrequited passion and underwear... fancifully embroidered from a few sketchy facts 


On returning in 1948, 
from service overseas, 
Ronnie at the age of twenty, 
took up lodgings in the house 
of a middle-aged widow 
and her adolescent daughter.  

The arrangement was hung 
upon the twin pillars 
of breakfast in the kitchen 
and an evening meal 
in the chilly dining room.  

There were contractual obligations on either side, 
standard stuff: 
payment a week in advance; 
a rent book; 
a laundry basket emptied weekly.  

And there were requests for consideration 
from the landlady 
regarding 
the use of the facilities; 
the practicalities of locking up if Ronnie should be returning late; 
and an insistence upon a reassuring absence 
of lady friends.  

Ronnie, 
though filled with an innocent confidence 
garnered through his years abroad, 
still harboured an unrequited yearning 
for a certain young woman 
named Dorothy 
whose acquaintance he had made 
at the American University in Beirut
and consequently he had, 
at this time, 
no interest in exploring 
other romantic avenues.

One afternoon, 
on opening the top right hand drawer of the chest in his bedroom, 
Ronnie was taken aback
by the presence 
of a pair of his own 
white cotton jockey shorts 
laid carefully 
atop the rest of the contents in the drawer.
source: https://www.etsy.com/uk/market/1948_vintage_ad
The shorts, 
softened with age and frequent washing 
and with a developing looseness in the elastic, 
bore the hallmarks 
of some 
unwarranted attention:

red daubs on the white fabric, 
which upon closer inspection 
revealed  themselves 
to be scarlet lipstick 
applied directly to the garment 
from what must have been 
liberally-coated female lips.  

Bow-shaped kisses 
staining Ronnie’s intimates.

Ronnie hurriedly slammed the drawer shut.

Then tentatively reopened it 
perhaps in the hope 
that the chest was in some way magical 
and offered the possibility 
that the garment might have
 mysteriously disappeared 
or at the very least 
returned to its unadulterated state.

It had not.

Removing the underpants 
from the drawer 
he placed them flat upon the candlewick counterpane.  
Then after a moment’s consideration 
folded them carefully 
ensuring that 
as far as possible 
the sticky evidence was 
concealed within the bundle.  

He then secreted them 
at the back of the drawer 
in his bedside cabinet 
alongside 
his address book, 
the photograph of Dotty in her tennis dress, 
his Authorised Version, 
his rosewood pipe 
and the two coiled sleeve supports 
sent to him by his mother 
in anticipation of some, 
as yet unidentified, 
desk-bound employment.

The meal that evening 
was somewhat more hurried than usual, 
and during it Ronald found himself 
studying the two female occupants of the house 
with questioning, 
curious eyes.  

He found himself checking 
their mouths 
as they chewed 
in order to establish overall shape and size 
and looking for any hint 
of artificial colouring.

In bed that night 
he continued his mental enquiries 
as to the identity 
of the perpetrator 
of this act of 
sartorial violation.

The older woman,
in her late forties, 
was somewhat dowdy in both 
attire and  disposition.  
Since the death of her husband, 
Ron surmised, 
life without her male companion 
may have provoked 
a longing in her loins 
and his own presence
may have brought about a 
surging of sexual desire 
encouraging her to throw 
caution to the wind.  
She may have regarded the lipstick 
as the final weapon in her 
arsenal 
of aging femininity 
and found her passion 
thoroughly expressed 
through this 
cosmetic ejaculation.

The daughter, Rosemary, 
fifteen and timid, 
had given Ronnie no prior indication of an interest in him: 
her fringe concealed eyes that shone but dimly; 
and she was as yet 
still seemingly unaware 
that the slight plumping 
out of her chest was a 
prefiguring 
of a general maturation 
of her pubescent body.  
Ronnie, 
having often observed her 
with one or other 
Victorian novel 
under her arm, 
wondered whether she had 
fallen prey 
to a powerful 
romantic 
attachment 
to him 
which could only find voice 
through this reckless act 
of passionate graffiti.

In his mind, 
Ron placed the two side by side.

Mother and daughter: 
the sexually experienced 
against the innocent.  
He balanced probability 
with desirability.  
He weighed his own, 
largely unformed, 
ideas 
of an imagined bedtime companion 
with these two potential, 
flesh and blood candidates, 
and then again 
cross referenced them 
with Dorothy.

His confusion was complete.


He rose at six 
after several sleepless hours; 
hurriedly packed his few things
(save the underpants) 
into his brown cardboard suitcase; 
wrote a brief note of apology 
(though not of explanation) 
to his landlady 
and inserted the next week’s rent into the envelope 
before quietly slipping 
out of the house 
toward the 
Green Line 
bus stop.

Crumbs


I thought I knew you.
I thought you
were the answer
to dreamed requests
the end
of undefined prayers
the key
to locked doors.

When we met there were traces of
chiffon
floating around your loins
and your presence
was as a breath
left hanging
in misty air.

But no,
it appears
I was deceived .

It transpires
that hair is involved
but not the luxurious ropes
from your head
but dark, curled hair
lurking in deeper recesses.

There is flesh,
and pores,
and sweat.

There are odours
that are not perfume.

There are sounds
that are neither gentle murmurs of
pleasure
nor moans of ecstasy
and some of these sounds
are shaped by other orifices
than your mouth.

It turns out that
sometimes
the things you touch
crack,
the words you speak
wound,
the promises you make
fracture,
the foods you cook
burn,
the phrases you coin
jar,
the projects you plan
seize,
the reasons you give
fail,
the people you meet
flee.

There are crumbs
in the bed

of you.



Wednesday, 24 December 2014

The Bishop's Wife

‘Twas the week before Christmas
four years ago
and Viv bought a dvd called
The Bishop’s Wife
- We’ll watch it together,
she said,
on Christmas Eve
and I’ll make a lovely soup
and it will be like
the Start of Our Christmas.

And we did.

She made a Lovely Celeriac Soup
and we sat and watched
David Niven and Cary Grant
being a Bishop and an Angel.
It was a good film
and there was a Skating Scene
where Cary Grant
took the Bishop’s Wife skating.

It was great.

It was the Start of Our Christmas
four years ago.

- We’ll make this a Tradition,
said Viv,
and we all agreed.
It would be a good Tradition.

The next year
we did the same thing again
although the soup was not the Lovely Celeriac Soup
because Viv could not get any celeriac
but it was still pretty tasty.
The film was just as good
especially when we remembered the Skating Scene.

- This is a good Tradition, said Viv
we all agreed.

The year after
Viv had a bad cold
and she had to go to bed early
on Christmas Eve.

- We’ll watch The Bishop’s Wife
on Boxing Day,
said Viv.
- Haha! she laughed, d’you remember the Skating Scene?
We all laughed
because we all remembered it.
It was great.

But then we thought
it wouldn’t be
the Start of Our Christmas.
So we decided not to watch it that year,
but we definitely would the next year.

The next year,
at 11pm on Christmas Eve
we were all busy wrapping presents
in different rooms and
Viv shouted
- Oh no!  We forgot to watch The Bishop’s Wife.
- Oh no!  we all said,
but it’s too late now!
We’ll definitely watch it next year, though.
- Yes we will, definitely! we all said.

This year
I bought the Celeriac for the Lovely Celeriac Soup
and when Esmé came home for the holidays she said
- We mustn’t forget to watch The Bishop’s Wife
- We won’t, I said,
I’ve already bought the celeriac for
the Lovely Celeriac Soup.
- Yay! she said.
On Christmas Eve morning
Viv said
- I just have to go in to town
to pick up a few
Last Minute Things
but I’ll be back at midday
and I’ll make the Lovely Celeriac Soup ready
for this evening.
- Yay! said Esmé
- Yay! said Naomi
- Yay! said I.

At a quarter to four
pm
Viv phoned to say
- Can you meet me off the bus,
all the Last Minute Things
are very heavy.



- Of course, I said,
and I went to meet her.

We were walking
Back Up The Hill
when she said
- I’m not making the Lovely Celeriac Soup
tonight
it’s too fiddly.
We’ll have it on Boxing Day.

- Oh, I said, OK.

So this evening,
instead of watching The Bishop’s Wife
and eating Lovely Celeriac Soup,


I’ve written this poem.





Tuesday, 16 December 2014

You Have Left

You have left this house empty

and now words have become noise
at a distance; sounds
echoing from the hills and playgrounds
where others dwell.

Catcalls from yodelling mouths
spiral through muffled empty
clouds.

Colours have leached from the world
and in your old room
the wallpaper still wet from pasting
in the excitement
of your anticipated return
acquiesces
and slowly subsides down the plaster,
bellying out into a depleted curtsy.

Some puffgod deflates

and above,
where there has been 
a vital portal to the vibrant silence
of the night,
the ceiling slides 
shut
on purple clouds –
roof slates clatter 
and cascade
scything
the wounded earth
as they land.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Oh Dad!

Pull my little finger
says Dad
Go on, pull it.

He’s holding out his little finger
I pull it and
a fart comes out of his bottom.

Dad!

What does a ship do when it comes into harbour?
says Dad.

I don’t know, I say.

Ties up!  he says,
and he flips my tie up in front of my nose.

Dad!

I’m in the car,
says Dad
when he isn’t really – he just wants to get going
but Mum says
there are still things to do and he can sit there as long as he likes
but she gets on better when he’s out of the way
sitting in the car.

And when it’s teatime
and he comes in from gardening
his grey jumper smells all smoky of bonfires
and there’s a drop of sweat dripping off his nose.

But when he comes home from work late
he tries to creep in so no-one can hear him
and he creeps along the hall
to the sitting room
where we’re all sitting watching Top of the Pops
and he pokes his head round the door very quietly
and says
hell-ooo

And we all jump
and go


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Only A Game

It is the duty of the poet to tell the truth as they know it... isn't it?  Sad to say this is a true story - but I feel confident that Jessica has forgiven us...


John and I
dug Jess a grave
in the garden.

Dad had been doing some digging
and we asked if we could.

He did not know
why we were digging,
but we dug a trench
then mounded
up the soil
as if we had buried Jess there.

Then we made a cross
out of two bamboo poles
and made a paper sign
with
JESSICA BALDWIN
RIP
written on it.

When we told Mum
she thought we were mean.
So did Jess.

The Russells
were coming for tea
and she said
don’t let Ann Russell
see our grave
she might get upset
and cry.

Ann was seven
and
it was only a game.

So John and me
we went and
jumped up and down

on Jess’s grave.

Buy Egg Yolk & Blue Biro here

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

vis-à-vis love

Please allow me to list
some features of yours
deserving of a mention:
viz,
your lips, your eyes
your shapely thighs.
Do you follow my gist?
(There are others I’ve missed.)

Allow me to note
some personal flaws
I should bring to your attention:
viz,
my increasing size,
a predilection for lies,
though they stick in my throat .

I could catalogue
what I love about you
in the hope of redemption:
viz,
your smile, your charms
your money, my arms.
(Oh, I am such a dog!)

I would briefly relate
why you should
reciprocate:
viz,
my shining good looks,
my library of books.
(But have I left it too late?)

Wait! –

Before you walk away
please allow me to say
that between
you and me,
vis-à-vis love,
there could be
a passionate courting,
a wooing, resorting
to flowers,
chocolate, showers
of kisses,
an assault of the senses,
your crumbling defences,
champagne in the park,
fumbling after dark.

These are the ways I would love you:
namely,
gamely, madly.

Should you leave
I would grieve.
How would I beat my retreat?

Lamely, sadly.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Trouble's Brewin'

My mother told me that I was the result of a row subsequent to an incident similar to the one outlined below.  She got me and a new washing machine.  But they weren't Sheffield folk and so this is purely imagined...

Fatther, Fatther,
What’s that on tha collar?

Muther, Muther
What does tha mean?

Fatther, Fatther,
What’s that mark on tha collar?

Muther, Muther
What has tha seen?

Tha knows what Ahve seen!
Ah knows what tha’ve been doin'.
Tha knows trouble’s brewing
‘cause Ah knows where tha’ve been!

Ah’ve just been downt road
t sup down a jar
like alluz Ah do
on a Saterdy neet.

Come on then out wi’ it
who was’t behind bar?
and don’t think o’ lying
‘cause you’re in th’ hotseat!

Ah never would lie,
oh my duckie, my cherub,
tha knows that a never could lie to you.
It were Malcolm and Raymond
and old Missis Flynn
and me an’ old Fred just had one jar - well, two.

Then how did tha get bright red stain
on tha collar?
And how come yer stinkin’ of Lavender Blue?
And how come yer breath smells of Woodbines and whisky
Tha said tha’d give them up if Ah did!

That’s true… Forgive me, me dahlin’,
forgive me, me sweetheart
forgive yer ol’ fella – tha knows that A’m weak
And as for the stain, I helped Joan with her shopping
and she give me one little peck on the cheek!

Nah don’t give me that!  Ah can tell when yer lyin’
It’s as plain as th’ nose right in front of me face.
Tha’ve been out gallivantin’ – no, Ah aven’t been spying
Th’ evidence is plain, it’s an open shut case!

Ah sweetheart, Ah’m sorry – tha knows it means nothin’
Tha knows Ah would never do owt to hurt you.
Ah’m a fool an’ Ah know it.
Ah don’t mean to blow it.
So please let’s get through it,
tell me, what shall Ah do?

What shall tha do?  There’s not much tha can!
My Muther was reet I should never have stooped.
Marry in haste and yer life goes to waste!
That’s what she said, ay, Ah think Ah’ve been duped!
So tha wants me forgiveness - tha wants to make up,
well there’s only one thing that will set things in order.
So fust thing tomorrer tha grabs tha cheque book

Get thisen down to Cole’s and buy me that front loader!

Friday, 21 November 2014

#twitterings

Twitter offers lots of opportunities for working your creative muscle in small ways.  Various tweeters have established prompts and hashtags to inspire short micropoems and microstories.  On twitter search for hashtags #LossLit #HeartSoup #wordchimes #MSpoetry and plenty more for a rich compendium of tasty little poetic titbits.

These are some of mine:


#trance

Stood in a trance
at a busstop
I realised
my vacant gaze
had fallen
on a young woman
who was slowly
exposing her midriff

#capturedpoets


#JoyofDays

We shared the sunlit
joy of days
but unaccustomed
to its rays
you left
& have become
the Gothic author
of my sleepless
dreams


#RavensVeil








#climbintome


Climb into me she said 
but the ladder 
I had made 
from flowers 
& words 
& feathers 
was far too fragile 
and crumbled beneath me  

#stone

Stone-eyed children
 wander these dark streets
to sleep on 
granite pillows 
soaked by tears and rain.


#underwater

It’s only as I’m
drowning here
eyes and nose
full of sudden wet sorrow
that I can hear
the mermaids sing





#lists

With sharpie
she listed my patent faults
a post-it on the fridge.
I grated my fingernails
down the black
memoboard
on the door -

There’s another,
she said.



#snapdragon

You seem to follow
the snapdragon path
cleared by your
acerbic mother:
you, the bud
she, the wilting flower.



#petals

Hey,
don’t love me like petals:
they unfurl,
they curl,
they drop.
Love me like
pine needles –
fresh, scintillating,
evergreen.


#myfavouritelie

How will you love me?
What colour, your sigh?
You’ll be my what
that will never die?
Of all of yours
this is
my favourite lie.



#Dusted cocoa

1
Dusted cocoa,
Demerara sugar,
I’ll meet you in the middle.
you,
me -
crunchy,
sweet.

2
so we did the kitchen
in
dusted cocoa

but as Ben said
paint would have been cheaper

3
...and then dredge
with dusted cocoa
for that final decadent flourish.

Now lick.


#black satin

To thumping Clubland rhythms,
you dance out your pain
black satin and lace,
all hips and face,
you're beautiful,

Granddad.
#sudden glow

there was no
sudden glow
just an
undertow
dragging me into
this pool

of wine

Top Cats

Holly and Willow the cats,
Have found a wormhole in the slats.
They creep through and hide
Till the turn of the tide
And come home sporting boaters and spats.

#kiss


You want to what?
Kiss me?
Ok... Whatevs,
fill yer boots.


No tongues!
#quills


Grandma kept geese;
took goosedown and thread
to a quilling bee.
Wasn't it just a typo?
Nope. 
Now she keeps her pinions to herself.


#Universal Process

Un-likely as it may seem
I’ve never
r-eally doubted
Sal-ly was a
pro-fessional prin-
cess