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 
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.  

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 
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 
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 
of a general maturation 
of her pubescent body.  
having often observed her 
with one or other 
Victorian novel 
under her arm, 
wondered whether she had 
fallen prey 
to a powerful 
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, 
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.


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
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
nor moans of ecstasy
and some of these sounds
are shaped by other orifices
than your mouth.

It turns out that
the things you touch
the words you speak
the promises you make
the foods you cook
the phrases you coin
the projects you plan
the reasons you give
the people you meet

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
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
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

Colours have leached from the world
and in your old room
the wallpaper still wet from pasting
in the excitement
of your anticipated return
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 
on purple clouds –
roof slates clatter 
and cascade
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.


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.


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

And we all jump
and go