advice to a younger sister
Our mother’s house is booby-trapped –
don’t be fooled by the sofa
soft and deep as milky breasts,
the coffee table polished to a grinning sheen,
the mirror smiling back as you come in,
the television blaring Sunday hymns.
Look closer at that reading lamp
she says is just to help her poor old eyes –
one twist and it’s a bare interrogation bulb.
See, little sister, how I am summoned here
at each full moon to squirm beneath
the magnifying glass of her maternal eye.
This, I say, is my daughter
and I’m sorry, mother
she is not beautiful enough
and chooses to live unwed
with a callous, pimply youth.
And this is my career,
a sunken sorry sponge cake
that has not risen high enough.
And I know, oh mother dear,
that I have let you sadly down
with my tiny two-roomed flat
thick-furred with dust.
Take my advice, little sister.
Go back only if you must –
that bearskin rug outstretched
before the fire has teeth
and they are bared at you.
So, our features offend you.
Too shrunken-skulled, too rat-eyed,
ugly web-winged embryos.
Skinny in leather and slinky fur, do you find our forms
too nazi for your civilised sensibilties?
You blame the moon for our presence
but we have always been/are always here –
armies of us sleeping in your soul-less churches,
fornicating in the rafters, pissing on prayerbooks and pews.
Or lurking in dark dank places
your kind once too inhabited.
We stream at dusk like smoke
into your streets, scribe
the thin black air with strange graffiti.
You claim we make your flesh crawl, appearing
out of darkness and silence.
Is it our fault, Sir,
that you are deaf
to the beauty of our songs?
Confessions Of A Wild Woman
Who art in H.Q. somewhere in America
Let me confess the sins
Which have made me the miserable witch
I deserve to be…
In my house are many rooms
And it is hard to hoover and clean them all
And in a secret cupboard I hoard a Himalaya
Of ironing, which has been known to avalanche
Causing danger to life and limb
And the temporary loss of one small child
But worse than these Oh lord I must confess
I own a black and lacy thong
And a clingy backless dress
I have long hair and legs
And cause men to lust after me
Especially if the light is low
And their vision failing
And now, oh lord, even with the greying
Of the hair And the lengthening of the tooth
And the lowering of bum and boobs
I get drunk on Saturdays
And fornicate on Sundays
When I should be in church
I hide from The Christian Aid woman
When she calls for her envelope
And dodge the Big Issue Seller at the corner
(But only if I don’t have change)
I use foul language
(But only when sorely pressed
I harbour ill-thoughts towards my fellow men
Especially those at work
I covet the Diet Coke Man
And the young guy at the bus stop
Whose shy smile brightens my day
With heathen and unnatural thoughts
Sometimes I forget to water my houseplants
And they die
Sometimes I over-water my houseplants
And they die
And for these sins, oh kind and loving god
Who is all-powerful, all-loving and all-forgiving
I deserve no better than to bring forth
In sweat and blood and agony and suffering
He who now borrows my car without asking.
I deserve no better than to be paid
A miserable salary for doing
A miserable job
While still trying to mother the fruits of my sins
And somewhere inbetween sing the praises of he
Who made me from mud and rib
So please forgive me,
Oh mother and father who brought me up right
And John Knox who lurketh like a flasher
In the shadows of my mind
For I have sinned
And am not finished yet.
Washing Day in Dublin
You stoop, lift a sodden towel, pin it
to the drying rope. As in a silent dance,
you, your mother, bend, stretch, rise.
On your right, the fuschia bush
planted when you were a child
drips with red and purple buds.
High above clouds white and frothed as suds
scud across the blue sheet of the skies.
Once in this garden you ran wild,
once you dreamed below the bramley tree,
once you fought and played while Rosie
from the kitchen window watched and smiled.
No child upon it now, the old swing sways
an ancient creaking pendulum -
it ticks away the days since
you have swung from boy to man
who helps his mother hang the washing out
while from the kitchen window
another woman holds you in her gaze.
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