The girl I wanted to be

I envied you your freedom

To wear short hair

Pierce things

I had only seen

On TV

Fall off your motorino

Breaking a wrist

With such impunity

Unafraid of the

Consequences

Approaching exams

Short skirts

Body paint

Cool for days

I didn’t see

The things that

Frightened you

Kept you acting

The social butterfly

To avoid authority

Running from those

Who demanded things

You could not bear to give

How could I?

With my own demons

To manage

In my long skirts

Flat shoes, subtle

Silent screams

Haunting adolescence

Like a will-o-the-wisp

We are similar now

Grown treading different

Yet parallel paths

Outlasting our pursuers

Ignoring our denigrators

Fiercely seeking our own truth

In a sea of snake oil salesmen

We were never friends

Yet hardly enemies

Mere acquaintances

Each wrapped up in

Our own, private concerns

On nodding terms

Barely aware the other

Existed, but rivals

For all the wrong reasons

I wish you well

Perhaps one day

Our minds may form

A greeting longer

Than the casual nod

We spare one another

From across the room

At some ghastly

Virtual reunion

Organised by those

Who peaked in high school

And want to compare

Their declining ambitions

In a club house

After dark

Like giggling teens

While the next generation

Smokes round the back

Of the toilets

Hoping a mint

Will disguise the smell

As parents pretend

Not to recognise

Their own poor choices

In their offspring

Still single?

Deserted?

Divorced?

Half dead?

Any rugrats?

Really?

Same. Or nearly.

Deep scars from wounds

Old and new

Here’s to us

And all those like us

How about it, Fay?

We happy few

Still standing here

Upon this day

At bedtime

I lack the words to describe this feeling

My sense of oneness with you

Who grew out of my flesh

And into this world

Making room for yourself

In our lives as if

You had always been there

On the edge of existence

Just waiting to step out

Into the light

We hold you

Folded tightly in arms

That we now see

Decaying

Withering as those

Of our parents did

Limbs curving

From old embraces

Into a touchless existence

You grow as we shrink

Such is the way

Of the world

But for a moment

I may yet hold you

Suspended in the bliss

Of a mother’s love

You fall to sleep

In my arms

I can pretend

We are still one

Cocooned

In this microcosm

Vigil on Mothers Day

What are we waiting for, mum?

Shh, darling.  People are paying their respects.

To the old lady?

She wasn’t old, my love.

So why did she die?

An accident.  No, not an accident… She was unlucky.

What do you mean, mum?

She was on her way home and then…

Yes, mum?

She met someone who wasn’t nice.

Not nice?

Not all people are nice, sweetheart.  Some of them are nasty and like to hurt other people.

She met a bad man?

It seems that way, yes.

How did she die?

We don’t know yet, baby.

But how?

We might know one day.  The police are investigating, trying to find out.

But she wasn’t old?

No, beautiful girl.  She was young.  That is why people are sad.

Why did they bring flowers?

That is what people do when they are sad.

But we didn’t.

No.  We didn’t know the lady.

But I want to bring flowers.

It is better for the people who did know her to bring them.  It will help them to feel better.  We are not bringing flowers so that there is space for theirs.

Oh.  When can we bring flowers?

When it is someone we know.

Like grandad? 

Yes.

I don’t like it when people die.

I know, sweetheart.  Nobody does.

Why do people die?

It is part of life.

So she died because it is part of life?

Not exactly.

Then why?

I don’t know, my love.  I don’t know.

Debussy hour

As the first strains of the piano
Arpeggios arch through the gloom
Of the blinds-pulled living room
You curl in my arms
Nuzzle for a breast
As if you were not outgrowing
Your babyhood
So keen to stretch skyward
When will I be a Big Girl, Mummy?
Soon enough, my lovely,
Soon enough.
This hour is my solace.
Your warm breath on my shoulder
Legs folded around my thigh
We embrace upon the sofa.
I ignore the floor
What little of it remains visible
In the chaos of your wake
Toys strewn like flotsam.
I am drowning by inches
Yet this is not playtime
I will not despair
For my once neat home
It matters little
And shall be overcome
Once we are both back on our feet.
Eyelids flutter as we reach for
The second movement
Ears adjusting to familiar rhythms
I reach for the mouse
Scroll to the next page
Of our story
Welcoming this forced pause
Suspended in our time
Inhabiting this shared space
To the end of the lullaby

Biting baby blues

We’re rocking teeth
More shocking news
Our shoes won’t fit
Our socks we lose

We climb as high
As we can reach
And make the most
Unholy screech

We don’t sit still
May throw our food
And roll around
When in a mood

With grabby hands
And strong-willed walk
The vulnerable
We now stalk

That thing you smell…
Our butt don’t lie
Some nose-to-mattress
Lullaby

If you want sleep
You’d best be dead
Small half-moons mark
The path ahead

And will we tire
Or do as told?
Hell no! We’re just
As good as gold!

We three kings

What can I give you
But words from my lips
A breath for your lungs
The breadth of my hips

To feed you and clothe you
And shelter you there
Our hope for the future
Small star that we share

In misunderstandings
All foster more strife
Too coy for the joy
Of a conflict-free life

No formal pronouncements
Of greatness to be
We limit announcements
To those we can see

In feeble concealment
Until you are grown
We’d raise you for strength
A mind of your own

And watching your progress
Will whisper as one
The charms that may comfort
Your sorrows to come

With hands in my pockets
Concealing all pain
I’d walk through the desert
To find you again

Giraffe

What kind of world
Will you inhabit
Once we are gone?
Will it be one
Of your own choosing?
New landscapes built
To youthful specifications,
A virtual world, or
Precarious solidity shaped
From the concentration
Of old-fashioned
Children’s toys – perhaps even
Those blue-and-red-stained
Wooden blocks
Of my infancy?
Will our groaning,
Grown-up legacy
Of piecemeal policies,
Poor housing, health,
And knee-jerk reactions
To old threats,
Half-remembered
Leave you with
Too little freedom
And too much responsibility?
However our teachings
Soak into your bones
It will be your turn
To roll the dice
And seek advancement
Or oblivion.
I hope we leave you
Prepared
And with sufficient
Tools to survive
What is
And what is yet
To come.

Leadership Training

Welcome dear, to the asylum
Where the grown-ups are not in control
Mummy’s out chasing a rainbow
Daddy is home but not whole

So what do we do with our brother
Who needs to be petted and fed?
Just sisters supporting each other
When parents don’t get out of bed

If you grab a hold by one ankle
Then I’ll take the other and try
To tease out the worst of the tangle
Then soap, rinse and powder him dry

I’m sorry your tummy is grumbly
There isn’t the money for S’mores
I’ll find what I can if you’re hungry
And we’ll have a picnic indoors

I guess we’re not going out playing
While youngest’s a hole in her shoe
I’ve mended the bits that were fraying
But darning the rubber won’t do

Besides which it’s no longer summer
And coats are too short in the sleeve
So even the common’s a bummer
With chilblains it’s better to leave

The exercise video’s starting
We’ll all sit together to stretch
Now reach for your toes if you’re hurting
And think of the rich and the wretch

If we can just keep it together
As family’s good for the soul
There’s almost no storm we can’t weather
To pursue an impossible goal

So try not to pick up your plimsolls
Don’t want anybody to know
If they catch a glimpse of the cardboard
When walking along in the snow

Then mummy and daddy are over
They’d ship us all out to a home
And though there’d be food there forever
We’re better off here on our own

Hedgehog

I once moved country
With a sleeping bag
A dictionary
Two dresses
A blue t-shirt
One pair of jeans
And a change of underwear
To live in a nine foot
Square box with no
Toilet or fridge
I cooked ravioli
In the tin over
A five euro
Electric kettle
And washed both
Food and clothing
In the bidet
Entertaining friends
One at a time
As I acquired
A single mug
With no handle
Singing songs
With strangers
Who were also
Far from home
So do not dare
To presume
That I will permit
Myself to acknowledge
The inconvenience
Of personal growth
There are other things
Upon this Earth
That chafe

Self-Censorship

There’s nothing wrong with ‘language’, –
To communicate’s the key
So why restrict the ones vereicht
(For many words begin with C)
Come, clarity can conquer crude
Catastrophe of cant
Through substitution of a vowel
It’s obvious what’s meant
When ranting on the topic of
Her least-admired slot
The poetry of metaphor
Reveals what is not
So obvious an object, yet
With strong component parts
Even ingenue construes it too –
What’s hidden of our hearts.
Pray, do not scold our children
As they strive to master terms
Still unfamiliar to those
Well-versed in Chinese burns
The patois of the playground
May be where they first attempt
Expansion of vocabulary
Mastery of feint
And tossing out tame adjectives
Must call a tool as speyed
With far more sense of phrasing
They’ll be that much less afraid
Of talking through their tensions
And timing out their tries
To test the twists and turns of tongue
That trip us up with ties
Inherent to our thinking
The second we’re quite grown
Abandoned truth that stank of youth
We posit the unknown
To bore for Merrie England
While chewing over fat
Discussing nothing needlessly
In stultifying chat
Quite lacking in all substance
Exotic or uncouth
Consigning dreams and hopes and schemes
To corners, dumb, aloof