Every Single One of Us Has the Devil Inside

When the devil came out of the bathroom
they sunk a little deeper in
and thought to state truth
but lied and lied.

Jerky transitions in a city of shades
lullabies where you can find them
being forgotten like snot-filled tissue
what do I hate about
being found? They grow and change
live and love like us
yet not like us – puzzles never solved
jewels in our crowns bent heavy with regret.

Tedious telephone voices
harp at you like the common cold
and the world loves nothing more
than beating you up in a cloud of smoke.
What refuge can you find bubbling
up enough random junk to float to the surface
for our stories to want more?
Strum-drum
Tick-tock
Too late
Jock-schok
You can’t, you won’t, you want
to keep a good woman
down, boy!

All palpable, the fingers groan
as they caress the fat downy tummy of a cat
with a puff of thistles in its fur.
We see the pastoral in a sleight of hand
how mind thinks its way into and out of this boxed world
but I’m not there to cry forgiveness.

Only the things I didn’t do
crackle after the blazing dies.

Drawing by Jodi Harvey-Brown: Inner Demons. From fineartamerica.com
Drawing by Jodi Harvey-Brown: Inner Demons. From fineartamerica.com

For dVerse Poets, Mary is encouraging us to use a line from Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Burning the Old Year as an homage to the poet. I couldn’t resist using the lines in italics, since it was Naomi who inspired me to start writing poetry once more (and start this blog in the process). For all your wonderful poems and kind words, here’s a very special thank you, Naomi!

Advertisements

Growing Up Is Hard to Do…

… especially when you are a girl. Two books I read recently reminded me very graphically of that.

At first glance, they couldn’t be more different.

Zazie‘Zazie dans le métro’ by Raymond Queneau is a zany romp through Paris, seen through the eyes of young Zazie, who has been dumped by her mother to stay there with her uncle for the weekend. The book contains zero metro journeys, but numerous taxi rides, bus journeys,  crazy characters (including a very relaxed approach to paedophiles and cross-dressers), swear words, phonetic spelling and a parrot who’s fed up with all that ‘talk, talk, talk’.

Layout 1

 

‘The Blue Room’ by Hanne Ǿrstavik (translated from the Norwegian by Deborah Dawkin) is the latest Peirene Press offering. As you probably know by now, I am a fan of Peirene’s translations of unusual and often challenging literature (novellas and short novels), and this is a much darker, more thought-provoking book than the French one. It’s about Johanne, a young girl who has been hitherto pretty much the model daughter, well-bred, studying hard, regular church goer, attentive to her rather narcissistic mother. One day, she plans to abscond with her boyfriend to the United States (just for a holiday, possibly, although a longer stay may be on the cards too), so her mother locks her in her room to give her ‘the chance to think things over’. In the course of that day, Johanne relives her ostensibly quiet home-life with all of its hidden tensions, her encounter and love affair with Ivar. She starts questioning her religious upbringing and has vivid sexual fantasies at inappropriate moments.

Queneau’s style is exuberant, experimental, over the top, while Ǿrstavik is restrained and subtle. Yet both books are far deeper than they first appear to be. It’s about the taboos society imposes upon young women and girls, what they are supposed to know or desire, how they are supposed to behave. Zazie ignores and breaks the rules with a nonchalant ‘mon cul’ at the end of every sentence, while Johanne finds it harder to not live up to her mother’s, her friends’ or her own expectations.In both books, the girls end up having a transformative experience within a short time (and space: they are both quite slim books).

The final sentences in the Zazie book sums up the situation perfectly. Zazie’s mother, knowing how eager her daughter was to see the Paris metro, asks:

– T’as vu le métro?

– Non.

– Alors, qu’est-ce que t’as fait?

– J’ai vielli.

Have you seen the metro? – No. – So what did you do? – I’ve grown up (or grown older).

The 2.0 Version I’m Not

I wish my parents had built an upgraded version of me      let’s call it the 2.0 selfish version

Not taught me to think of others, nor walk in their shoes.Broken_egg_orange
I wish they’d told me to hold out for Jimmy Choos
that worth is indeed measured        in status and cents.

I wish they’d taught me to interrupt and shout louder
cover the world’s cacophony
that my views are important         more right than anyone else’s in the room.
I don’t want to listen always nor ponder in impartial waters.

I want to see the world in black and white instead of always turning the coin over
to check the other side.
And why, oh why do I always give second chances, third and fourth?

I wish I did not feel tugs of guilt at each morsel thrown out.
I wish those wide eyes and distended bellies would not haunt my cupboards, nor air miles prevent me
buying sweet fruit I know I’d love.

I wish I’d never been introduced to Patience, Prudence and Humility,
three hags who’ve slaked my appetite to win, murdered my ambition,

till faintest rumours of boasting make me laugh and shiver.

Yet disdain is all fine and good.
No one cares, disdained by me.
Adulated by masses, emboldened by success,
they fail, repeat, never learn, except to repent no more.
While I nurse, bruised and battered, an ego like an unboiled egg,
integrity left orphan in a world where I no longer belong.

My Father

I was never Daddy’s girl –

I was his only seed.

He’d come so far: cow’s tail to ambassadorial sash,

always the sparkler, never the rein.

He taught me all I knew:

cheering Maclaren on TV, explaining the finer points of rugby,

testing me on African country names, world flags, capital cities,

he never once faltered, he had all the answers.

He dared me dream better, spurred me shoot higher.

We were explorers; I lived for those days

when the car’s nose would choose our final destination,

perhaps climbing up to the fortress where Richard lay prisoner,

my own Lionheart all roar and fun bluster, streaming ahead, always the one to catch.

 

No hiding of his light under bushel, repetition is his manna, boasting his flow.

Nicotine breath exploding in laughter, the world rejoiced in his fireworks,

the teasing, the wordplay, the invented words.

At times the scintillation broke my lesser spirit.

I stormed away, blinded, to be sought out and hugged,

brought back in the fold with boxing and play.

‘Of course I did not let you win that game!’ His reassuring fib.

Swirls of his humour, like chocolate, like warm custard,

would treacle forward to sturdy up the shore after the storm.

 

Spent in passion, united, against all odds so similar,

we’d sit in peaceful duality on the sofa and read.