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
In these fractions I seek solace
That infarction is no menace
To my own unknown condition
Though my colleague lies on trollies
As they fill her veins with serum
Hoping vasos are dilated
I’m surrounded by the vision
Such careers are overrated
In my secretary’s costume
I must take on further duties
Try to prop up one more rostrum
And ignore last rites for loot. He’s
Working from his home computer
While I ride the bus to nowhere
In the misty morning chatter
That’s conceived to make me go there
How much more am I allotted?
This existence, mere survival
Will I too go out, garotted
By a heart attack unrivalled?
As my logic fails, convince me;
I’ve decisions that are burning
Every inch would rather lynch me
Than continue painful earning.
Although I rarely explain my scribblings, as I prefer to let the reader interpret them at will, this poem, and the one that follows are written in response to a recent event. The woman with whom I share a desk at my day job suffered a heart attack this week. The events on that occasion and which have followed have caused me to question our place in the universe with perhaps more focused ferocity than usual.
This is the place we come to die
We secretaries, in our rows
Two frozen stiffs, a living lie
Few care to note, and no one knows.
While patient, we sit out our time
In managing capricious men
Whose fruitless whims, though not malign
Wear lines on brows and fray each hem.
One more may chew on dust this hour
No more to block electric space
In diary; a heart lacks power
To beat a path through empty wastes.
We are not dumb, and yet, we wait
Preparing meeting rooms, hot drinks
Awaiting proof; appreciate
A mind, unheeded, soul that shrinks
And though the autopsy infers
What killed her was nobody’s fault
That one can prove, (except for hers)
With such a sedentary vault
Of memories of closet, desk,
A filing cabinet to store
The means of murder – this slow death
Made up of tedium and chore.
The show must go on
As if pain were so much motley
Your costume for the close of Act One
Calls for something jolly
The lighting grid that follows closely
Every tiny truth
Is signalling for sequence two
So hit your marker, move!
No tears may fall upon your cheek
For make-up will no secrets keep
And running down your chin to seep
Through dry-clean-only, borrowed, cheap
Steal hope for critic’s mild misgivings
Drowning in depressing clippings
Uglified by wig and ribbons
Pantomime with all the trimmings
Make dumb show and mime for laughs
How things are fine – they’ve rung the half
Don’t let us down, we’ve paid to see
Up close, what’s not reality