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.
The boy in the next bed was dying
of a disease with a fine French name.
No fruit, no flowers, no cards
wishing at his side. He had freckles,
curly hair the colour of coal tar soap
and Dr Barnardo’s for a home.
We strayed, whenever nurses looked away,
used Fagin skills to pry Fry’s Chocolate Cream
from the vending machine in Admissions.
The boy leaning on the push
handles of my wheelchair, dragging
numbed feet, sometimes losing a slipper.
At night the pain came stealing.
The boy, a brittle whisper
crept into my bed and I held him
close, close as skin,
nose to nose, forbidden
mint breath clinging.
Father sings Russian lullabies as he drives
the coast road, the island like crushed glass.
We pass beneath the kissing trees.
One, two, three, four, here comes bunny for a run.
Five, six, seven, eight, here comes farmer with his gun.
Ready now, nine and ten…
I watch funny bunny burn in the living
room stove. Ember eyes shine and fade.
Synthetic fur shrivels as flames swallow
my beloved black and hollow.
My fist clenches a secret lock and I crunch
Frosties from a Beatrix Potter bowl.
The ambulance man with striking
green eyes stroked the inside
skin of her teenage arm as she lay
strapped (for her own safety) on the reeking
canvas of another NHS. If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!
She thought he was, maybe
trying to be nice (but those alien
fingers were electric…) No comfort
blanket, suspended in L10 skeletal
traction, legs akimbo and knicker
-less (for her own hygiene), a monster pain
-ted by Hieronymus Bosch. The male charge
nurse with watery grey eyes brought gin
secrets in a Barr’s Cream Soda bottle, hot
take-away through her open
window of gritty nights.
She thought he was, maybe,
trying to be nice (but gin made her sick,
she liked Babycham).
The glass half
-full on the sunny side. Cheer up, might never happen,
said the porter with lizard pink
eyes taking her down to a strip
-lit basement, down corridors
lined with conduits. If you’re a lucky girl you’ll meet Jimmy!