there are times when you wish
everything were so easily forgotten.
as you face the hard fact that
your days of breaking hearts are past.
as far behind you as innocence and rosary beads,
and creeping downstairs to watch forbidden TV.
they’ve spiralled down into the pages of old diaries.
I remember you
one lost rainy solstice,
beautiful with the purity of youth,
untried, arrogant, straight
and strong and true.
it was the longest day
of summer, before it turned
to retreat from our tanned arms
and your defiant face.
that steady march away from glamour –
your eyebrows scold it,
as you bristle, insolent as a cat –
but none of us can hold it back.
or the years that follow
and strip you of your silky hair,
smooth-skinned, lithe-limbed nonchalance,
that once inviolate confidence,
cool studied air of being unaware.
you are less sure, less yourself,
your sharp clean edges fuzzied, ill defined,
a pale reflection of yesterday’s radiance.
it’s almost too much for me to bear.
this fragile sparrow of a song,
unassuming, candy apple gray,
resonates with the lingering
and oh so bittersweet
poignancy of a dusty valentine
or a faded and dessicated rose
discovered in a broken shoebox
on the back of a shelf of your childhood.
sent by a disregarded high school beau,
his name forever inscribed in your vanity,
whose unrequited passion you now recall
with desperate fond and foolish nostalgia.
it chokes you with the lump-in-your-throat
lost loveliness of a little-known track
off a seldom played cult album of long ago.
now passion and rejection are memories
from when you used to feel
and you can scarcely remember
the girl you used to be.
Love this album, Nobody’s Fool, by Shakey Graves. Downloaded on Shakey Graves Day in February. Immediate favourites were Wolfman Agenda, Seeing All Red and Pay the Road. Seventh track Love, Patiently was more of a slowburner but has now breached my defences, impregnated my consciousness, set up a camp in the undergrowth and invited its friends round.
dismissed with a flicker of the eyelids,
a transfer away,
attention no longer required.
he wears assassin’s gloves,
a sliver of pale wrist between
black leather and sleeve.
grants you one of his
the ones that speak volumes,
meaning that slices to the bone.
discipline is what rules him
but the rules are not of his making.
lets his trigger finger do the talking
world-weary disdain on his innocent
child’s face, blank, without guilt,
prettily flecked with the
blood of the dead.
in the pharmacy
I recognise the
another woman is wearing.
I know she’s steeled herself
to stillness for a spell,
on the edge of the torn vinyl bench
across from the counter.
but the amenable idleness
of the gossiping clerks
soon drives her to her feet
and she paces the aisles in
a restless aimless fashion
slowburning to caged-animal frenzy.
whatever we’re waiting for –
antibiotics or antidepressants,
sedatives or laxatives –
we’ve long-suffered to the end of our tether,
eventually incubating the edginess
of junkies jonesing for a fix.
each asinine comment or tired version
of what passes for conversation
in tiny unbothered by other people’s
time constraints high street chemists
another irritant, a burr in our tender places,
all kinds of acid to our peace of mind,
when nothing progresses our cause
or expedites dispensing.
I liked you from the start
with your bashful smile
and grime-caked nails,
your nervous hands clutching
each other in muted panic
whenever strangers loomed too close,
whether bearing alms or malice,
to your sacred safe place
by the old subway entrance.
I didn’t know but I should have guessed
the thirstiness that hits you hard
late afternoons when the bars’
dark interiors beckon.
how it sets off a clarion in your skull,
your palms start to tingle and sweat,
and a purpose possesses you,
swallows you whole.
you settle easy for a spell,
disconnected from the world’s clamour
by the clear cool contents of a glass.
a moment of clarity
when it all makes sense
and then, before I know it,
you’ve become someone else
and I’m as unnecessary
as I’d always suspected.
Photo of Beale Street, Memphis from Belinda
at the end of the school field
[since developed into housing],
a boy screwing up his face
in a cub scout uniform
[now father to a ten year old],
your sister uncannily like
a popstar in rather bad drag
poised on the front porch
ready to step into her future
[some things never change],
the front grille of the old estate car
[you cried when it went for scrap],
poses and stances and
moments in a life more ordinary than most
and a sad parade of so much that is lost.