Snow Hill

I'm not sure this is going to be a poem,
Mum, but I've been thinking about anxiety,
how you passed it on to me and now
my daughter's face has that way of falling
out of the room when I'm madly rubbing
my chest, convinced it's the wrong shape.

I know you don't read poetry and I didn't
want you to think this is representative of
poems people write today. I want to clear
that up before we talk about the vision I had
on the train after they evacuated Snow Hill
station due to "a suspicious package".

It's not that this isn't a poem, I'm just
aware of being poetic and trying to avoid that,
typing fast with blurry eyes; I missed my test
maybe I need glasses, but people already say
how much I look like you, this anxiety
is enough and we burn easy in the summer.  

This might be a poem depending on
who you ask. Dad thinks they should
rhyme but he bought you kitchen utensils
one Christmas and I remember feeling bad
for him, for you, banging new drums
in my cold shed at the bottom of the garden.

Don't think of it as a poem, forget
I mentioned poetry. I want to talk about
the vision I had on the train: I must have
forgotten who I was because when my mind
snapped back into the carriage I could hear
a heavenly choir loud as any concert.

No poetry - the other passengers didn't
seem to notice; I thought, ‘How nice,
they are playing music through the speakers.'
but it got louder until the choir shook
the train and I could feel it climbing into me,
running through my veins like Brandy.

I smiled Mum, and I'm smiling now, this
could be a poem! It was so pure I felt
existence communicating with me… 
And then I realised it was just the sound
of wet tracks, metal slowing down, speeding
up, and the choir flew across the fields.

Maybe this is a poem but remember what
I said about poetry and don't show this to
Dad, remember the pots and pans. I'm sorry
for everything; you didn't know, but I know
and I can steer my daughter away from
this hand-me-down curse because I'm a poet.

It looks like this is a poem after all, Mum,
so you probably won't read it, or you will
pretend to read it and then talk about how
much you hate your life; that's okay, I won't
mention my vision if it will make you worry
about my future, the madness in my eyes. 

So I wrote this poem for you, Mum, and for
myself listening to Chopin, grinding my teeth.
Slower and fatter and older now. My heart
is a tiny bell ringing in the hallway
of a house where no one speaks. My chest
is a funny shape. I hope I don't need glasses. 

Dinner Ladies in Their Youth

Chairs in hospital waiting rooms irritate my piles, I was
balanced on my left buttock, reading a biography  
of Nick Drake, skipping to the part where John Martyn 
weeps for ''Poor Nicky,''. A nurse to my right     
was struggling to keep a disturbed girl in one place         
with demons biting her shoulders covered with glowing spots.
She reminded me of bus-stop frowns in the rain 
and dinner ladies in their youth. 'Lisa, the doctor 
won't be long, just stay here. Hey, do you want to play  
with my phone?' She was wearing baggy pyjama-bottoms    
with faded leopard spots and a long grey t-shirt 
that billowed every time she stood up and the nurse 
pushed her back into a chair. She reminded me  
of a wardrobe filled with ghost costume bed-sheets;
she made me nervous because the nurse seemed to be 
preventing her from running in my direction.
'Stay here Lisa, shall I fetch you some water?'   
Nick Drake was very ill, he didn't want to see anybody.
My itchy piles made me squirm to the right   
just in time to notice Lisa sailing my way like a huge     
rubber duck in The Dead Sea, her farmyard gaze fixed   
on my forehead and her t-shirt pulled up over big   
porridge-pale breasts: I winced and turned away as the nurse     
grabbed her by the wrists, 'Lisa, you can't do that! It's wrong.'
I put Nick Drake into my bag because I couldn't concentrate,
I was thinking about telling my friends on-line about this;
wondering how to truly put across the wallpaper locked door    
smell of soup wash your hands dirty ceiling horror of it   
listening to Pink Moon on a Friday morning with someone   
else's fingers in my mouth and my bare feet tapping along   
with the cobwebbed rhythm of a boy who doesn't know.

Canned Food

My lips fold in
over my teeth when I forget
to stock up
              on canned food.
I have visions
of opening the curtains
to Lovecraftian
blackness, a heavy-
breathing absence,
             nothing left
of happy earth
except a small family
in a messy flat with no canned food. 
I always
pass beans and soups in supermarkets
             thinking, "Next time,
             next time..."
and now I'm having
one of those days where
             my hands
             make painful claws
             and no matter what
my wife says
   or my mother says
        or my doctor says
   we need to stock up
on canned food
because any day now,
in half an hour 
             everything could disappear
                  and I will starve
in a messy flat with my
small family staring
at me forever.

       © Bobby Parker 2012