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
The girl I wanted to be
I envied you your freedom
To wear short hair
I had only seen
Fall off your motorino
Breaking a wrist
With such impunity
Unafraid of the
Cool for days
I didn’t see
The things that
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
In my long skirts
Flat shoes, subtle
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
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
Organised by those
Who peaked in high school
And want to compare
Their declining ambitions
In a club house
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
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
Follow the yellow brick road
We both knew all the words
To each of the numbers
And most of the steps
But neither wanted to be first
To break into song
Cowardly as the proverbial lion
Surrounded by the judgement
Of our peers and their puerile
Forays into social exclusion
At a dumbed-down video sleepover
Where MGM was not associated
With Leo or Slats,
Black and white was ‘boring’
And they had never heard of
Noir, or the Studio System
But could recite the calorific content
Of black coffee, chicken soup
And the price of keeping
On their uppers
Snake Oil, Sass and Razzamatazz
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?
Through mists of sleep I spread my wings
And soar past many fickle things.
All that bears glitter children prize,
Yet childlike, I, to my surprise
Can see no value in such stuff.
Though teen-hearts dream, I cry enough!
And long for far-off simple days
When gifts meant more than pleasure-craze.
I should not preach, but here I boil.
Why must we our children spoil?
For in the gifting of such trash
We barely feel the daily lash:
Consumers all! Now eat your sweets,
Break your toys, foul the streets!
But do not let me hear you say,
The old will do for me today!