We had nothing but rags Bags of old costumes Piled in the corner Of a dusty room Discarded scraps Of forgotten dreams So I taught myself to sew Building a tapestry Of my patchwork life Knees folded on the Chilly bathroom floor Its cracked blue lino Like ocean waves The tattered curtain Tucked up over the rail Learning to navigate By feel and intuition As I frowned Squinting at my needle Trying to get the thread Through a tiny hole In the mushroom-coloured dusk At the awkward age Of thirteen years and one month I wore them out My colourful creations And people stared Admiring and mocking In equal amounts When I grew Good enough That you could see Design in my skilful Manipulation Of throw-away stuffs I sold some For coin, or bartered favours Tailors can be born And they can be made I took commissions If you could describe it The perfect dress I could draw it in my head Then threading your dream Through my careful fingers Seam by seam I could make it Come alive
I envy those women in the magazines
It goes back to something missing from my teens
Their white trouser, silk blouse lifestyle
When pimples and bad hair were my style
Do I deserve their barefoot walks on the beach
With a dog whose perm is out of my reach?
Can I emulate their effortless charm
In a climate where thick vests are the norm?
And as advertising copy is rife
Where do I sign up for their perfect life?
With a spouse who is polite to my mum
And a car that is the envy of some…
Or is that only alive on the page
While we sigh, we buy, but bicker and rage?
What has happened to us living the dream
In a home of painted white wood and cream?
How are we supposed to manage to burn
All the endless stuff they tell us to earn?
And as pensioners smile sweetly at kids
While their offspring bust a gut on the skids
Keeping families from floating away
Working harder, longer hours each day
For an ad campaigner, trainer, shamer
Knows no namer, public blamer
Never better, next trend setter
Panty wetter, promo debtor
How is this for living the dream
We grip tighter than our miracle cream?
Otherness, that Big Brotherness
Shy, awkward, standing-in-the-corner, self-hugger. Stressed
With anxiety. Though sobriety
Lends an inevitable hand to propriety. I stammer
Stuttering a greeting that gets lost upon our meeting
In the chaos, overheating, panic seeping ‘til I’m cheating
Stepping out for some air, with strangers turning to stare
At me becoming aware, of laughter everywhere… Surrounded
Following a pealing that can set all senses reeling
‘Til I’m floating near the ceiling, tongue-tied, fingerless, unfeeling.
Shake my hand? No conversation with the cowards of creation.
I am sinking with sensation when I hear the celebration –
Party pooper! Join the group-er! Super duper! Have you heard?
I am chatting through my hat and it is really quite absurd
Can’t stop thinking while you’re drinking that I’d rather be back home.
In the company of others I am stubbornly alone.
Please believe me that I didn’t want to crowd your little clique.
It’s not personal, no, not at all, I’m shy and quiet. Quick!
While they’re quizzical, get physical just grab a bag and go.
I’ll be cruising while you’re schmoozing, floosing, boozing yourself slow.
Thumping heart, still overheating, terror-beaten and guilt-eaten.
Stumble, tumble an apology then fumble past the seating.
Through the constant sea of voices calling for too many choices.
‘Bout to lose my cool again if I give in to Twist and Shout.
God, it’s lonely on the fringes of the automatic out.
I’ve met some mates of mates of mine
Accumulated over time
Whose presence almost prompts a crime
And cannot make me bolder
With comprehension fading fast
When faced with who they picked at last
Put all attempts engaging past
The eyes of their beholder
I try and fail – it feels in vain
Where conversation causes pain
Equivalent to throbbing vein
The frigid front hits colder
And yet last night for once I met
A lady that a classmate set
On pedestal without regret
And pleasantly espoused her
Small consolation, this pitiful perch
Surrounded by steel and starch
As visiting faces stare out
Through grubby perspex
Wrinkling their noses at
That curious hospital smell
Their eye ever drawn toward
This floodlit cradle of democracy
Ignoring the quieter agonies
Of their own flesh and blood
Listen for a living
They pay you not to care
Just keep good time, a tidy room
A plastic plant and chair
And sit and hear their problems
With tissues close at hand
You take the place of absent friends
(The job they couldn’t stand)
They do not need a verdict
It’s not your place to judge
This isn’t their shock-therapy
You cannot bear a grudge
The woes they wail to tempt you
Are all the world they know
Unpacking all their sorrows
They dump the lot and go
Not fearful that tomorrow
They’ll pass you in the street
No matter what they tell you
You have to be discreet