The American site Verse Daily has selected my poem “The Girls Who Work at the Makeup Counter” as their poem of the day.
A dozen red razors.
Eleven peals of manic laughter,
Ten impending crises.
Nine duels at dawn followed by
Eight candlelight vigils.
Seven sighs, six lies, five
Four of my first-borns
-Three of them bastards-
Two brinks of despair,
One portent of disaster.
And O, the moon you asked for.
You spy it in the roadside murk.
Cat, you say. Or possibly dog.
A blur of fur as the car speeds on.
A trick of the dusk. A hunched knot
Undoing itself in the sprawling dark.
Something else, you thought
You saw vanish in the rushes. Or not.
Your winter coat, frayed at the wrists.
A tape of your voice reciting verse.
A fear of King Lear. A belief in ghosts.
Animals spoke in the worlds he created.
He liked to lose himself beside me in those places,
Away from his own bed, his heart full of holes,
His kingdom of cold spaces.
They sank their teeth into me later-
Shadow-rat, Claw-pig, and the Dark Horsie.
I crawl from these dreams to his room on all-fours
And beg him to make them disappear forever.
He knows the magic spell, my sleeping father.
Slung like a sack of cats out of every bar.
Stripped to the waist like a witch in the village square.
Stoned. Star-struck. Kissed.
Kissed on the mouth by God’s Gift.
After Mother scarpered
It was ship’s biscuit
With shrapnel sparkles.
It was hot spurts and gristle
And cold snaps with a wet towel
For stealing a puff from Dad’s fag
Or sneaking a peek at his titty mags.
But we buggars deserved no better.
It was us that made her run off,
With our bickers and our bungles.
It was our bloody cheek.
It was his bleeding knuckles.
A cartoon voice squeaks at me through a toy megaphone. It penetrates the waves of drunken nausea for a moment before receding. It gets louder and is accompanied by reinforcements. I open my eyes. A blonde shaped like a Mayan fertility idol stares down at me. Behind her stand two line order cooks swathed in bloodied aprons. Maybe they will draw and quarter me. Maybe they will do a dance routine, like back-up singers. She flings her head back and trebles her chin. She will call the police, she says. I have gone too far. I heave myself on to my elbows and squint through the pine railings to my left. Two children sit in the restaurant section with their rotund mother, smearing ketchup onto a tablecloth. One of them gives me the finger.
I am in Honkers, the family-style roadhouse located next to the Conestoga Mall with its famous glowing wagon wheel and western-themed food court. I have gone too far. I have been fondling the fiberglass effigy of a rock star. Honkers has several of these. Some are placed in alcoves above the bar like saints in a cathedral.
I grab the blonde by the ankle and hold on. Read the rest of this entry »