Lesson of Admiration

Clara peels the potatoes.
She had her hair cut very short
so when she worked the land
the teary locks did not blight the grass.
‘Bad luck for the crops’ concluded father
one afternoon as he watched the news bulletin.

He switched the television off and
put the lights on.
He measured the length of each eyelash
and declared that ‘yes, indeed, they did stop us
understand the real life’.

Nobody could disagree with a scientific discovery.
Father took the scissors out of the cupboard
and laughed at me
as he dropped Clara’s plaits on the living room carpet.
My black plaits never grew after that.
The hair developed inside my lungs.
At night, I spat the growing particles out
and hid them under the floor boards.

Father believed the news as, he said, ‘we all
had to believe in something certain,
which can be seen with the naked eye,
in real things’, like the soiled potatoes
spread on the dinner table.

On Thursdays, we peel potatoes,
kneeling in silence by the water pipes.
Father sits on a stool to watch
my weekly exercise of admiration.
He checks the peels stained with droplets of blood
and laughs again.

My bald head tilted above the sink looks at Clara.
My hair comes
out of my mouth,
out of my chopped fingers,
floats in the air,
to cover her skull.

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Photograph: John Stadnicki

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Family Photograph

‘No-no!’ I shouted ‘the fish tank will stay in my room!’
The golden dead creature, floating on the green water,
had my mother’s face
before she went away.
I liked to keep everything neatly
in the same place where she left them,
undisturbed by the melting sun.

The dust shined
on the glass lid,
on the doll’s eye,
on my forehead
each night
when asleep in the hallway.

I sat down on the cracked lino,
covered my arms with leafs
and kept watching Clara tidying-tidying the house.
Her yellow fingers piled everything in a black bag.
She left the fish alone, with a sigh.

Looking at her moves up and down the stairs
I thought she looked a bit like
the one-winged butterfly
unable to jump out
through the shut window.

I wondered what butterfly meat tasted like,
if sliced with a silver blade;
what mother tasted like
in the moment I was released
honey coated pearl.
I put my elbow close to my lips
and smelled to see
if she was somehow hiding in there.

Clara tripped over my spread legs
but kept singing.
She did not look ahead.
I looked ahead
at each room
with a serious face.
My empty baby skin rested
on top of the rubbish bin.

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Installation: Rita Fenning

With Naked Eye

On the way to the palace
I paused and thought for a moment whether my fresh linen coat
Was really appropriate for her majesty;
My feverish hand brushed the pristine fitted jacket and checked
The size of the buttons,
As golden big studs would have looked rather disgusting
To her well trained eye.
It started raining so I had to turn back
As I quickly gathered that my attire would get soaked
And rather mouldy;
So, to avoid a rather embarrassing situation for both of us,
I thought I’d better try a wet suit instead.
Surely I looked better in a suit than a jacket but
I could not find suitable shoes to go with it
And the rain wasn’t that bad after all.
I was by then very late and rushing
To get a front row seat
When suddenly after a short deliberation
I realised with clarity that her majesty appreciated
Me
For who I was
Rather than my fashion sense
So I took the Lycra skin off and
Rushed outside naked in the broad daylight.
The police stopped me
Just as I was about to call for a taxi.
Even to the day I think
Honest people should be treated with more respect
And I secretly believe that
Her majesty needs a good dose of
Postmodern reality check.

The Warm Bones

We are running a bath, my sister and I,
The river drips, drips through the ceiling
While my fingers write poetry on the steamy mirror.

She sits on the bathroom floor, eating chocolate.
Mother says people like her will grow fat and
I know she is probably right
But Clara is always in the same room with me,
Eating chocolate,
Watching my very words.

Clara agrees that I should wash first
And whilst I take my clothes off
All my warm bones fall on the white marble.
She admires my tallness
And folds away my perfect dress.
Clara examines my poem, moving her head from side to side,
Asks whether all this writing is about her.

I do not hear the question
I wash my hair with soap
Her hands follow the lines of my text.
I cannot stop starring at
Her thin reflection in my black icy water.

Imagine the music

Jo is sleeping, his back up, his face down, his long legs stretching in a huge step forward, two small steps backwards,
One step forward, one step backwards.
(We used to play this game at home with other communist kids ‘Imparate, imparate cat e ceasu’?’- ‘Emperor, emperor, what’s the time?’ while mother was asleep. Her shift had finished that morning. We had to be quiet. All my country was quiet. We had to imagine how we’d played, how we’d laughed and had great fun, to imagine apples, oranges, bananas, chocolate. We had to imagine the music and how mother had bought us new clothes.)
I’m washing up the dishes trying to avoid unnecessary noises
Trying to wide open my eyes and see properly through the smoke
You might wake up
Where is the national pride coming from, and the memories, and the forks and the knives, and the pork pies and the red faced people?
Hihihi
The fence has a hole, the dog comes in
The car has a hole, the dog comes in
I cut the flower bulb in half and wrap it up with silver paper before I go to bed