It was a time of velvet love,
revolution and Snakebite.
My mother gave me beige
polo necks and warned
of the dangers of touching.
My summer job yielded
a red dress from Bus Stop
with a plunging neckline
and a scalloped hem that swirled
when I twirled to Bowie and Bolan
alone in my room, rehearsing
my poses with a feather boa.
I met him on the landing of a cold
terraced in Queensbury, queuing
for the loo and giddy with homebrew.
He pretended to take my picture
with an imaginary camera, squinting
and clicking his tongue. You look like
what’s her name from Pan’s People,
he said as he kissed my neck. He wore
a peacock feather in his blonde locks
and a guitar with a tartan strap. His lips
were curvaceous like Bryan Ferry’s.
He called himself Fritz and a pacifist.
My mother was ironing father’s
socks, underpants and cotton shirts
when I got in, the steam clouding
the kitchen with a choking mist.
She didn’t look up when I gave her
the peacock feather. It’s pretty, I said. Some call it the evil eye, she replied.
Next day it was tucked behind her
gilded wedding photo on the shelf
with the candles and the broken clock.
urge to check I’m still
there strikes in public spaces.
When no-one’s looking I dip into my bag
for my compact mirror, green mother of pearl carved
with a dragon fly. Smooth, cool, it opens languidly
like a mermaid’s eye. I keep myself at arm’s
length to get the best view, either the top
or the bottom of my face. They don’t
make those mirrors big enough.
I can never see the
whole of me.
smoke and alabaster the purity of revelation
baby powder and snow east and west, dawn and evening
honey dew and mint cream the illusion of perfection
ivory and seashell surrender and treachery
old lace and linen the white knight
lavender blush and ghost dead-white faces
floral white and corn silk cowardice and cold
parchment and pointing the second stage of the Great Work
champagne and vanilla virgin sacrifice
cosmic latte and glitter mercury poisoning
magnolia and pearl the boredom of waiting
flax, eggshell and bone death rides a pale horse
The last time I saw you, corroded
man of metal, manoeuvring your mortal
shell over tarmac, cyber sun sparked body
-work so blinding you didn’t see me
at the window sipping Irn Bru. Your brittle head
shadowed by your Panama, dipped dead-pan,
you looked like an Italian film
director shooting the scandalous
biopic of an unknown Nazi. My father,
forged by Stalin’s Holodomor,
man of steel with the ability
to change shape, become uniform,
less liable to crack
the annealing boy with a sword.
Such handsome cheek-bones.
They burned villages on the Western
Steppes belching black smoke
on the day paramilitary death squads
took photographs. I dreamed of you
behind the wheel of a red
Volkswagen Beetle your shame
-ful love of German engineering,
your welded lips breaking down,
reforming internal shapes under
pressure like Swarfiga green
jelly in a tub. You held out one
giant hand scarred by hundreds
of burns, carved deep,
never given a chance to heal
working fourteen hour shifts
at the foundry. Get on board, you said.
Words stuck in your throat
when they took your rotten teeth
out. You coughed blood and lies
into a white handkerchief,
pretended to hang yourself with a jump.
Freedom is a gift not for Everyman.
You were someone else in 1947,
metal pushed through a die.
Tackle it when thrust through the window.
Look difficult when leaving the control area,
keeping right. Drive gentle up the road.
There may be more than you.
It will contain the time and distance you.
Get to the first junction as somebody else
and set off again. Beware of blindly following.
He may know where he is going or he may not.
Keep trying to make the fit and keep an eye on.
You may end up lost off route, being baffled
on route! Alternative. Pull up, obstruct and try
the hand better than clutter. With practise
you will plot the move keeping at least two.
If you are baffled it may be your opinion
-miracles do happen and he may see. Do it
or provide the clue. As a last resort guess.
Don’t stumble on a code. Use a magnifier.
Don’t discard handouts, keep them safe.
Engineer the maps in alphabetical
to easily locate you in the night.
Note:- Plot and Bash is a navigation technique used within British Road Rallies during the 1980s.