i can’t compete with the other woman
in his life
he yearns for her
in ways i barely understand
she offers pleasures indescribable
experiences beyond the physical
purely cerebral stimulation
never messy and unpredictable
he plans and schemes
how to manipulate her
adapt her to his own devices
on his mind
when i irritatingly ask
what are you thinking?
they share a past
and a future
ongoing through her many and various
the shell of her predecessor gathers dust
but her essence endures
(she would never forget his birthday)
the focus of his attention
on her details
absorbed in fascination
with the minutiae of
her intricate abilities
her most intimate workings
she can be whatever
he wants her
i can only be
the drive took over an hour
navigating unfamiliar parts
of the motorway network
but when we arrived
there was more than one long stay car park.
it’s a blue Polo with roof bars
but by the streetlights they all look the same to me.
then we see him loitering
he waves unobtrusively from the roadside
indicating the spot.
two anonymous cars parked adjacent
in the damp twilight
the dumpy and silent girlfriend
stands watching as
a large box is transferred from one boot
negotiations are made
money swiftly changes hands
just a nod of acknowledgement.
lights and radio on
as we pull away.
that was such a bargain.
Little did proud Mr and Mrs Babbage know
in their moment of elation
at young Charles’ creation
that the engines of his imagination
this modern day revolution
of our social relations
from the mere written word
and telephone conversation
to mass participation
with binary notation
a celebration of congregation
(ok, with frequent frustration)
so there is a distinct correlation
between his fascination
and our conjugation
so he is guilty by association
of bringing you
(Word taken from the lyric “in ways that are yet as of now unforeseen” from the Suzanne Vega song ‘Song in Red and Grey’)
(Now not sure if it is worse to put an esoteric reference in a poem and assume that people will be educated enough to understand it, or to add a little footnote and risk people feeling patronised. Anyway, will risk the latter and point out that Charles Babbage is credited as being ‘the father of the modern computer’.)
You come in the morning and stand in a row
waiting to be told just where you must go.
Stillness and silence are the most precious virtue
without them the system will be forced to subdue.
Fingers on lips and arms folded tight
if everyone behaves nicely we really just might
… get to play a game
or sing a song.
Don’t try to engage or enjoy while you are able
when the bell rings it’s quick to the next on the timetable.
They give you gold stars, house points and the rest
but only when they judge that you’ve done your best.
They keep you in line with the promise and threat
if you don’t work your hardest you’ll forever regret.
… ‘Must try harder’
or ‘a good term’s work’.
They call it blue table but everyone knows
the thickies all sit there in the corner and doze.
And as they progress through the system it seems
that the teachers they meet will crush all their dreams.
They are steered on a course that keeps them in place,
dead end jobs with no prospects at the back of the rat race.
… or maybe hairdressing
and the army, of course.
Squash down your own passions, keep them inside,
nobody cares what you want, you’re just along for the ride.
Don’t try to be different or to do your own thing
learn to blend with the crowd, individualists won’t fit in.
And if you demand some freedom and kick up a stink
they’ll pile on the homework so you’ve no time to think.
(we don’t need
no thought control)
Just answer the questions and confound all the sceptics
so they can tick all the boxes for the government statistics.
The system works hard for society and state
that’s why it’s there, don’t try to escape.
And if you take some time alone to revive your soul
they will track you and hound you with the truancy patrol.
… Education Welfare Officer
then a PRU.
They dangle before you the promises of success
but what they ask in exchange must surely depress.
Twelve years of your life, shut up in a school,
(about as much fun as twelve years in a cesspool.)
So free your mind and your life, what would I advise?
why not try taking your education …otherwise.
them kids alone)
(Notes: 1. PRU is a Pupil Referral Unit. 2. education otherwise refers to section 7 of the 1996 Education Act, where parents are responsible for providing education for their children “either by regular attendance at school or otherwise.”)
(Linking back and arriving rather late for The Poetry Bus)
I throw the dinner together
in a haphazard fashion.
Something from the freezer
perhaps with dumplings on top,
or left over bolognase
fashioned artfully into a lasagne.
And if the fridge is really vacant
there are eggs,
I intended to be so organised
but somehow I lost my way.
So we are left with strange choices,
the contents of the cupboard
the result of random wanderings
down supermarket aisles,
lots of tomato puree, peanut butter (smooth and chunky)
and some very old pudding rice.
Like the way I found you
and ended up here,
the haphazard result of
down life’s aisles.
She called that stubborn one Paul
and the new one this morning Jeremy.
Genevieve started it all,
because they arrived so rarely.
Always boys names,
“because only boys are that annoying”
and you can call them after ex-boyfriends
then squeeze them out of your life.
(Thought process: conversation in the kitchen whist preparing panini, and I ran off to write it up.)
She was wearing Stella McCartney,
but there was something in the way she moved,
and I knew that,
though I’d been away so long
I hardly knew the place,
I would be sleeping like a log.
and so are you,
I smiled reassuringly,
but do you think that money is heaven sent?
Living is easy with eyes closed,
but man, I had a dreadful flight,
and now today I find that you have changed your mind.
You made a fool of everyone,
I blurted out.
Does this mean you don’t love me any more?
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
You are misunderstanding all you see,
sleep pretty darling, do not cry,
for with every mistake we must surely be learning.
We are all lonely people,
where do we come from?
Can we work it out?
A noise came from behind,
but to keep my mind from wandering
I sat on her rug, biding my time,
for all we need is love.
(Linking back to The Poetry Bus, where the challenge this week involved reference to the two ‘Stellas’, but I know nothing of the other so was left only with McCartney)
There is a woman walking down platform 1.
She has been here many time before.
It is cold tonight, being January.
She walks steadily from one end of the platform to the other,
following the line of textured paving slabs.
Her shoulders are hunched,
and if you could feel under her jacket she is shivering very slightly.
Each time, at the far end, she pauses and stares down the track
before turning to retrace her steps.
The train is late, again,
nearly an hour.
The information board is blank.
Finally a bright light approaches and a train comes to a halt.
But it’s not the one she wants, though she checks all the carriages
just in case she’s mistaken.
On the opposite platform another train arrives.
A few students bringing home their washing get off the train from Bristol.
She resumes walking, to pass the time as much as to keep warm.
Finally, without warning, the one she is hoping for.
Heart pounding she pursues it down the platform as it slows,
scanning each door window as they pass ..
… and then she sees them.
Somebody waves, they are looking out for her too.
She smiles stupidly and waves as they all wait for the door to unlock.
There is that awful moment as the door opens;
who comes out first,
who gets the first hug.
She tries to hold them all at the same moment,
to gather them up in her arms,
but they are too big for that now.
The teenager is laid back and casual, ‘Hi mum’.
The twins; one nuzzles in tight, the other more keen to just get home.
And the youngest, pushed out by her siblings, pulls a sulky face
but relents and gets a carry to the car.
And they talk.
So much talk,
words tumbling over each other in the rush,
as if they need to say it all in the first five minutes:
what happened at school,
who got into trouble,
who had a row with dad,
who lost something.
Then; have I got the day off,
did I buy a PS2,
can we get such and such,
can we have this for dinner,
when are we doing that,
are we getting pocket money?
The weekend will not last,
trying not to watch the clock,
too soon they are gone again.
It is only in this moment that I can stop missing them.
(Written initially some years ago as a short story for the MATCH magazine, Mothers Apart From Their Children. I used to meet my kids at Cheltenham station late on Fridays. Fortunately that is no longer part of our lives. Now I just meet the youngest on her return, she still hates trains. The change from third to first person is deliberate.)
(Linking back to The Poetry Bus on TFE’s blog.)
(Just popping back to add a link to the most famous train poem, Night Mail by W.H. Auden, on Youtube)