Some of my poems for you to read…
She moves that silver ring from one finger
to the next, to see what itmight look like
to love someone to their bones —
to keep dinner in the oven and keep it warm for years,
put garden fences on her Christmas list
and keep that list tucked under takeaway menus —
and when she’s kissed, she’ll ask
what you want in your sandwich —
let’s say it’s you that kissed her
you who goes off first thing
to sell pensions from a briefcase —
while she makes waving from square windows an art.
She’ll keep her past in the drawers,
write letters to the back of the oven,
sew her wishes into the sides of your vests.
She’ll dance in the kitchen
she’ll cry in the bath,
always get a lottery ticket when she goes out for milk.
When he asks you to dance
to My Heart Will Go On
at the disco
you think that he’s joking.
When you spend ages
picking shoes with your Mum
and that girl takes the piss.
When you go to kiss your uncle
goodbye, both go the same way
getting him smack on the lips.
When you tuck your skirt
into your knickers and Mum
isn’t there to have your back.
When the couple in the restaurant
have a fantasy
involving a waitress
and you are the waitress.
When there’s blood on your school skirt
or ink in your mouth;
when she asks you for a lighter
and you pass her a highlighter.
When you pick Destiny’s Child:
Survivor, for your final piece in PE
and fall from the top of the pyramid.
She worked at the Coca Cola
factory for years —
always told us it was her
who put the fizz in those bottles.
Those thick-skinned women who brought out
suds and sponges in buckets, rested them in doorways,
kneeling in their slippers, they’d scrub and scrub.
It was all about keeping the modest porch dirt-free daily
and looking well. The old dears of W10, so much pride.
The ones who told tales of real life in their kitchens,
carried generosity in their bellies and plates of
buffet food two by two.
The Old Man
You listen to deaths announced on the kitchen radio,
you know most of them, tell me that’s what you get
for being old. The tap of your soft soles on the lino,
you’ve had that pair for ages, the only shoes I think
I’ve ever seen you in – scuffed black and bent up.
You tell me how you walked to the schoolhouse all
those years ago – you and your brothers, barefoot,
not one pair between the lot of you.
You in your jacket and cap, ragged old stick in hand –
we walk the lanes. I mean to ask you a hundred
thousand questions before you go for good, just so
I can say that I did, just so I can say I knew everything.
I run ahead pretending I’m Mary Lennox, kicking
the heads off dandelions and dancing round your legs.
The ditches either side make the lane into a maze,
not a gap in the green.
When I’ve gone too far I leg it back to you. You puff tiny
clouds my way, pup-pupping that worn-out old pipe,
and when you’re not looking I take off my shoes,
just to see what it’s like.
All poems © Laurie Bolger.