Dad Drowned Six Kittens in Hastings
Giggles, tickles and sunlight floods,
our lungs gasp from laughing.
Scaling pear trees, wavering high,
our taste buds swell for fizzy pop.
Dad’s wondrous sage eyes, his blanket hugs,
our slaver forage for those Easter eggs,
and four vegetable patches,
one for each of us.
Kittens, globules of cloudburst white,
their bellies bulge from suckling.
Sloshing steel waves, mop by the side,
all kittens flopped and water sopped.
Dad’s putrid puce leer, his bulking palm
had scooped them lifeless from their teeming pail.
Limp cauliflowers, dug in,
each for one of us.
Skinny strums his fingers on the bedroom door,
What’s Fatty doing revision for?
Brazil beats Bradford at Subbuteo.
Fatty pens his homework at the desk,
“I need to do my revision,"
Bradford whips Brazil at Subbuteo.
I’ll slam the door off its hinges. Sneering, “Fat rat, fat rat."
“I’ll do my revision.” Smiling, “Who falls down cracks in the pavement?"
I’ll slam it; I’ll do it again, do it again.
“My rifle’s by my desk; he’ll face the firing squad."
Skinny rigid, bullet blasts, skims his jaw, pits the wall,
My jaw’s a bloody mess.
Skinny roars from door to desk; bone meets fat.
Swirling torsos, frothy lips, crimson splats and flailing limbs,
clashing walls, skirting boards to kitchen lino floor.
The poker’s by the fire; he’ll face the javelin.
Fatty heaving, poker soars, shaves his head, spears the door,
“My head’s a bleedin' mess.”
With hands on knees, Skinny heaves,
That must have been a crap plywood door.
“I’ll pull the poker out, place it by the fire.” Smile.
I’ll grab Be-Ro flour, fill a cup with water. Sneer.
“I’ll place the cup on the floor; add the Be-Ro flour."
We’ll choose a knife and paste the mixture in the hole.
Ah, “Blue Peter.” You can’t tell now can you? “No, maybe Mum won’t notice.”
Sawdust on the floor in the butchers,
in the grocers – bananas, rabbits and apples.
Cut – not cut the rabbit’s head off,
but cut the top part where the ears are.
Peel the skin like fur.
When they got to the feet, they would chop them off.
And the sound of the peeling was lovely,
like skin on black pudding – a whole black pudding, all in one piece.
That was on a Saturday.
And then to Panters for curly-topped loaves.
And I wept.
I am a four-fingered ginger mother.
Those fingers wrapped round mother’s ruin gin,
in a glass that tapped along the bar last night.
Wrist cocked for more, I frolicked and guffawed,
with balding men double my age and half my height,
Down in one, at the Old Cock ‘n Bottle.
And I staggered, after, after hours drinks,
High-buttoned boot heels stuck like bees to beer floors,
to the blur outdoors, to the puddled Yorkshire slabs.
I traipsed, kerb to cobble, choking drizzle up the hill.
Silent swaying terraces either side.
And there she lies, my rose of all roses,
in her pram where I left her – her lashes low.
Her bonnet’s satin ribbon looped and tied,
her sunny limp curls touching lily skin,
coiled and cocooned in creamy cotton sheets,
and lifted like a buttercup, up to my mattress.
Her bluebell eyes dewed in the candle’s flickering light,
cheeks pink to purple, teeny palms in reach.
“Hush, my little one, your mummy’s here now."
I drew her softly to my bust to drink
her life milk, swaddling her, at last, to sleep.
And I woke; and she couldn’t; she wouldn’t.
Cotton sheets uncoiled, bonnet ribbon undone,
lip rouge on her forehead where I left it,
and I toasted her frozen soul to mine,
as my throat roared, chin lifted to Lord God –
He was deaf to my cries, blind to my eyes.
And I wept.
The Peeler’s handcuffs are on.
Chilling steel wringing into my cocked wrists,
blue faces turning me inside and out,
and there she lies, my bairn in a bag,
carried to the blur outdoors.
The Seventies Anti-Romanticism
I’m a teen, sweet 13, September back in ‘77,
Wrangler jeans and jacket, maroon ironed brown to maroon cool blouse,
Meathead girls emerge from school, “Tell your brothers we’re invited."
Brogues, Doc Martens, cherry red and nappy pins through leaking pus lobes,
Clash, Sex Pistols, rocket phlegm that splats on radiogram LPs,
I crave Dancing Queen, imagine I am 17. That won’t happen.
Pale ale gulps, roaring throats, pogo thuds, spray can cretins decorate.
So, I’m sipping Tizer by our fire, our dog, Fido beside,
“Hi, my name’s Manson, I’m 22.” What’s he talking to me for?
Bleak dank hall with kitchen gleam when Manson eyes my cool maroon blouse.
Pull push clash, his sodden lips un-clamp my soured mouth and leave vexed.
Kitchen squint sees Fido yowl, his back leg in punk warrior’s rank reach.
Upside down. Let him down, please let him down. “Manson’s tried to kiss me."
Pale ale pause, gaping jaws, nosedive dog, coal-eyed brothers scrum outdoors.
Tattle tale, no seeing, no hearing, no speaking, my lungs held still.
“Don’t worry John, we’ve roughed up Manson, go back and drink your Tizer,"
so I sip flat Tizer by our fire, deformed Fido beside.
Wake to streaming beams, the stench of Cadet cigarettes, pale stale ale,
boys 14 to 40 dead on a sticky couch, floors and carrot-spewed chairs.
About the Author
A graduate at Lancaster University having completed the Creative Writing Masters degree, Julie Lancaster’s poems have been published in Spring to Life and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Julie has a neurological movement disorder and is intrigued by the art of writing. She has three grown-up children and lives with her mum who enjoys eating Rich Tea biscuits.