The Worst Best Years: A Student Life Anthology

I have just had a poem about my student days published in a new anthology by Acid Bath Publishing. Copies of the anthology can be ordered online here:

A change of scenery

I went to stay in sunny Italy for a year
Living in a town world famous
For haute cuisine, truffles, fancy ham and pecorino
The very foodiest of destinations
I did a lot of cooking
(Well, it was to be expected)
Navigating new ingredients by taste and smell
Before I learned their names
Only poisoned myself once – not bad on the whole
Made some new friends,
Lost touch with some older ones
Painted, wrote, sewed
Hung around market stalls
Trying to find my own rhythm
In a land of foreign charms.
Rode trains, went to the beach
Burned my pale, freckled skin to a
Delicate shade of lobster
Learned some new swear words
From the Pharmacist
Whose prickly, heated suggestions
Soothed more with their familiarity
Than any packaged pills and creams.
I sang with a choir
My immodest soprano soaring over
Earthier tones of local talent
Evaded a would-be stalker
By placing myself out of reach
To sing with a different choir
With a better grasp of syncopation
On the other side of town.
Flew home for a funeral
Then back again before I lost myself
This new me, forcing down my feelings
Keeping family at arms’ length
Hoping to hold on to that
Hard-earned accent
Avoid de-tuning my ear
With old quarrels and new grudges.
Felt a bit lost. Dropped some weight.
Photographed forgotten corners
Wandered streets teeming with lost souls
Gazing at Architecture – with a capital A
Treading dusty marble in heat and snow
Watching my pockets for stray fingers
Trying out new meanings for ‘home’.
I treated myself to the cinema
A foreign-object-lesson
Surrounded by pitying groups
Sporting sunglasses, crisp shirts
Smooth skin and sleek, shiny hair
Putting my bushy auburn curls,
Ill-fitting jeans and t-shirt,
My lack of entourage or escort to shame.
I signed up for a course
Taught by a woman
Whose intimate knowledge of
Ancient sarcophagi and killer heels
Screamed bride of Boris Karloff
Just like the Fulgor cinema
With its dusty portico and
Timeless playbill.
I squeezed into the third row
Of a crypt, asking questions
With a confidence I did not feel
Alabaster windows, gold mosaic tiles
Dressed to impress as best I could
With my mismatched wardrobe,
My evolving makeup collection –
Dark brows, red lips, sunglasses
Bright headscarf to set off
My noir-inspired look
Blending in by standing out
Pale anglicisms dwarfed by design.
My fellow strangers seemed
Unmoved by most of it
Buildings of such rich decoration
Crammed with foreign students
Rubbing elbows with the natives
Who rarely looked up
At the painted ceilings
Youth wasted on the young
History forgotten by those entranced by
More modern pursuits, fashion, technology
I learned to exist in a different landscape
Blended in as a natural oddity –
Imperfect scenery, but unremarkable.
Yet, all this wealth of experience
Failed to move me from my mundanity
And I returned to rainy Manchester
Salivating at the thought of a cheddar cheese sandwich
On wholemeal sliced
A slick of marge, all the way to the edges
Maybe with a dab of Marmite to top it off
And a mug of supermarket-own-brand
Red-label tea to wash it down
Brewed strong enough to stand the spoon
With a splash of milk
As comforting to me as rain in August,
Grey skies and green fields.

Socially Satirical Poem

Three little businessmen, ran to catch a train.
The salesman got there first, but strangely turned around again.
The lawyer shouted ‘stop!’ then ran on as the others paused.
The politician huffed and puffed, but there was no applause.

On entering the carriage, all the passengers aghast;
The salesman barged straight up the aisle, the lawyer then pushed past,
The politician coughed a spell then mopped his weary brow,
I sat there in a corner, watching, wondering, what now?

The salesman made a tired mum give up her seat and move,
The lawyer rudely staked a claim by crafty elbow’s shove,
The quiet politician, without a word sat down,
Then unpacked papers from his bag, enough to fill a town!

Three little businessmen, settled in to ride.
The salesman got straight on the phone, my word, but he was snide!
The lawyer chose to read a while, then unpacked not just book,
but torch and pen and bookmark to make sure we all would look.

The politician next to me had work to do, it seemed,
Yet as he sifted papers, I watched and thought I dreamed.
No laws was he a-reading, no bills, naught penned of State,
But letters to the editor, the Daily Mail of late.

Three little businessmen, caught the four-eighteen.
‘Tis truth, that which I tell you, though it may seem obscene.
The best-dressed in the carriage, the least well did behave,
As one by one they all did start to rant and then to rave.

The salesman’s telephones after a while had ceased to work.
He chose to vent his spleen at all and sundry, what a jerk!
The lawyer found their ticket was not quite the one they claimed –
Not valid on this service, nor even in their name!

The canny politician, avoided all the fuss,
By nipping to the lavatory when the inspector passed.
But such was his frustration, on coming back to find,
The trolley passed already, that his manners slipped his mind.

Three little businessmen, had a rotten trip.
The salesman made a fool of himself trying to act so slick –
He loved his voice so dearly that, despite his useless ‘phone,
He pitched his product to a youth – alas, if he’d but known!

The student studied chemistry, was quite a whizz in fact.
He knew about the product, and what’s more, that it was crap.
He told the salesman nicely, just why it didn’t help.
Oh my, was that poor salesman shocked by this young whelp!

The lawyer tried to argue with the manager of the train
To let her off her fare as she would not pay it again.
‘Though arguments may be your job’, the train attendant cried,
‘You’ll pay like all the rest of t’mob!’ – she did, for all her pride.

The politician also, took a rather nasty fall –
For farting in a public train is hardly shame at all,
But blaming what you did upon another who did not,
Is like to get a politician in an awkward spot.

Three little businessmen, pride before a fall,
Might have learnt a lesson, but I fear have not at all,
For daily do I see them, each one on my train,
Try the same tricks over, and fail at them again.

(Based on actual events, any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely beside the point – you all ought to know better at your ages!)