Grandmother Troy

I adored both of my grandmothers – the one I was named after, and the one who died just as I was due to give birth. Forceful women with strong opinions, difficult lives in the countryside through multiple regime changes, a backbone of steel even as their bodies betrayed them.

The goats bring sticks to her porch.

Her hair harbours leaves.

Brother Pig snouts amiably at the damp patch

beneath the hearth

where she –  once more –  spilled the soup,

bread chunks now softened enough

for her remaining three teeth.

She warms her swollen knuckles

against the earthen pot:

all she can hear are the mild-greedy snuffles

of her four-legged companions.

Soot caresses the damp wool

of jumpers hung to dry.

She no longer cares if mulberries stain

her thumbs or clothes, grey hair in its plait.

Fingers in knots, eyes milky clouds,

she no longer mops the muck she cannot sense.

Still slashes her way

through nonsense with a crackle of joints.

Picture courtesy of rivi.ro

Veronicelloidea

The snakes are writhing, they thrill

to the sound of you calling out ‘darling’

and ‘baby’, words you no longer mean.

They sluice the bogwater flooding

the ditch between us. They glide

on silted escape routes. By mid-morning

they made their way across

the path and slimed our wall: a slash

of colour on our grey, a purple bruise

of Botoxed lip. Our bodies oozing

slush, I step into the naked squelch

of their needs. Salt the wounds.

The quiet assassination.

The bystanders of our rot.

Veronicelloidea is a superfamily of air-breathing land slugs. Salt kills slugs by dehydrating them rapidly.

I am linking this up to my favourite poetry site dVerse Poets Pub, which is back with renewed va-va-voom after the summer break. Can you believe it’s the 200th edition of their Open Link Night?

Poetry Café Poem-A-Thon

The Poetry Society’s newly refurbished Poetry Café in the heart of Covent Garden is reopening. I’d been there a couple of times in the past, when it was a bit run-down but nevertheless full of poetic passion and open mic sessions. It is much more streamlined, clean and bright now.

I attended an amazing Poem-A-Thon fundraiser on Saturday 22nd July to help with the final details of the refurbishment. More than sixty poets read or recited their poetry for a solid ten hours (ten minutes for each poet, audience could come and go as they pleased).

There were also tombola tickets for every entry (and I won some gorgeous posters of Poems on the Underground as well as a book of poetry by an American poet I had not heard of before, Nick Flynn). There were many poets I wanted to see, including Anthony Anaxagorou and Raymond Antrobus in the evening, but I could only stay for an hour and a half in the afternoon around the time that the poet I ‘sponsored’ was reading.

This was the very talented Rebecca Goss, whose poetry volume Her Birth is one of the most moving portrayals of the love and grief of parenthood, describing the loss of her infant daughter to a rare and incurable heart condition. She read much more cheerful poems on this occasion, and was every bit as enchanting as I expected her to be, but it’s those heartbreaking poems from her book that I remember above all:

Assure me I will be ripe
and stretching, my belly full

but still have space
for her first days, last days.

Assure me I will keep her toes
accurate as maths, her smell

precise, her voice heard above birds.
Assure me I will not howl her name

during birth, that I will place
newborn fingers in my mouth,

taste only newness.
Then, I will consider another.

However, I was lucky enough to also hear Marc Brightside’s poems about his difficult relationship with his father, some very funny and topical poems with a political slant from George Szirtes (I will be attending a poetry course with him in the not too distant future) and Rishi Dastidar, as well as a good mix of seriousness and humour from Kavita Jindal, Ruth Smith and Mohib Khurram (who writes in both Urdu and English). A great introduction to both famous and emerging poets, of many different backgrounds! I only wish I could have stayed longer but will certainly be back for other events.

You can still donate to this campaign if you wish, but what I would really recommend is to attend the open mic sessions on the first Thursday of each month at 3:00 p.m. if you possibly can.

 

My Mother’s Sofa

She lived in the city of Mozart, so rococo was second nature. She chose a sofa so redolent of Baroque features, it rolled out of the warehouse on its many curves and swirls. It came to rest in our living room, all carved curlecues, easy to bang the back of head against when your laughter pealed out. Not that there was much laughter in that house.

Within days the burnt ochre leather caused heartache and questioning. Too bright? What would the neighbours say about the ripeness of that shade? Would they sit and tug and scratch it whenever they came to visit? But very few people ever entered our house.

Better safe than sorry, though. So she covered it in green velvet, tailor-made cover with frills so rich, it could stand up by itself when you took it off for washing. Those frills swept all the way down to the arched wooden legs, even as they yearned away from under the stifle, all tip-toe. So hard to vacuum underneath.

A few months later she realised the velvet might get worn too quickly, that she might require a new cover …oooh, say every ten years or so. In came the casual throw, loosely draped over the pool-table green. Cheap polyester cream with tassles and shiny stripes, too thin to keep its distance when backsides sunk into it. My mother was fanatic about cotton, but hated ironing, so polyester made do. It clung to clothes, turned static, and we spent most conversations not actually seated on the sofa, but straightening out its multiple covers.

But I digress. After decades of discomfort, my father’s weary bones can no longer keep that horror in our house. But it’s an expensive horror and we want to ensure that we get the best possible price for it. For Sale: Baroque Sofa, Nearly New.

Fragments of poetry caught gauze-like at night

Vulnerability sits beside a heart of stone, chided for being late.

Freeze-burn experiments roil in extravagant chalice where poisons hang sweet.

And I suckle oh daily those words because

they declare themselves worthy

poetic

and more,

designed to plug the gaps in our stature

and teeth.

You can always tell wealth by the teeth they choose to display.

The Appeal

You have been wiggled

You’ve been sifted                                          cleaned out and weighed

Each grain examined                                      you were found wanting

Your feet too shuffling                                   your teeth too evolved

Slow rip and hide                                             under your mantle

Poked and shushed over                               tut-tut rejected.

 

Meant to be read each column separately but also across the two columns. Very much unlike those who are unable to think outside the box.

 

This is what it feels like…

Cheer up! They said

When the clouds drew near

But whizz not want not

They stalk my sky.

 

Set goals! Be SMART!

On days when minutes

Morph into lead-drops

Shower a move too far.

 

Change your pattern!

But in this kaleidoscope

Glass beads jangle and jar

To delay any recognition

 

And the voice drones, not bitter,

That high-pitched old jingle:

How many ways can we fail today?

Water patterns panorama by Bonnie Bruno, from fineartamerica.com