The car in front of us
What in heaven’s name are they up to?
The red car in front of us, you say,
is only going fifteen miles an hour.
The steering’s pretty wobbly as well.
There are two in front and one on the back,
all bundled up in hats coats and scarves.
They speed up then slow down again,
peering out to the left and right.
There’s a set of rosary beads
swinging off their rear-view mirror.
Below it, they’ve got a satnav on.
Of course, that explains everything.
These are dead people looking for Purgatory.
They’ll drive round the centre on old roads
among the new lights and roundabouts
until the accounts are settled.
Charlie Chaplin was eating his shoe.
I was too young to call it a boot
or know that his speechless relish
of food that was and was not there
neatly pointed out a brutal truth:
when you’re on your uppers you’re stuffed.
I just remember him twizzling the laces
then slurping them down like spaghetti.
Even things that were funny then
were inexplicable and unexplained.
Today a pair of shoes needs laces.
As I walk somewhere that sells them
I will consider my feet and how each
is fortunate in its functioning shoe.
I will consider myself wealthy
for having vacant shoes at home,
will consider how much I still don’t know
or understand – such as how this can be,
and whether or not it’s still funny
many years later and so much further on.
Finally, if I don’t meet anyone
to distract me, I will consider
the shoes my feet aren’t in
back in the cupboard, with empty eyelets,
inedible but also uneaten.
Colour-changing boy decides his future
Sample with thanks to The Horrors
I’ve come up with various super-hero names for myself:
Chameleo, Chromo-Boy, Prismo, Rainbow Lad.
But Colour-Changing Boy is the one that sticks.
As super-powers go, it’s not the greatest when you think about it.
I mean, what do you do in an air-crash scenario? Go cherry red?
I could become an Art hero:
the orange man goes pink, goes gold, and back to ultramarine
on a plinth, in a tank.
No luck so far, though. My agent gets me a bit of fashion work,
some posing for life classes, that kind of thing.
Also, I’m the wrong shape for a porn star, apparently.
And in any case, while I guess the idea of sex
with a completely purple man would turn some people on,
cameras make me nervous, and the cinema makes me queasy.
Someone once suggested politics, maybe as a joke,
but I don’t have any strongly-held views.
I could fake it, join a church, illustrate redemption
or join an avant-garde band, and go down
in multi-coloured flames at the end of the show.
But in truth I prefer to hide in bookshops,
where I can be the colour of paper.
I’m toffee-coloured in sweetshops, mint in ice-cream parlours,
and scarlet in the ambulance.
At the beach I don’t just get sandy, I turn beige.
If I use your bathroom, I become avocado or magnolia.
And when people ask have you thought of tattoos
I say don’t even go there.
I haven’t got a favourite colour,
and when people ask what I was at birth,
I just have to say I don’t know –
though my mother screamed, she told me.
At school the black and white kids called me Ginger,
though I wasn’t of course, and I’d catch the teachers
looking at me sideways.
So at night I lie there, pale blue, with no-one watching,
contemplating the day when, like everyone else,
I go down into the dark for good –
but eyes, bones, skin ash-white.
Still, all that has given me another power,
even if it’s one they don’t want you to use:
I can see through you. I can see through you.
So yes, it is. Maybe it’s politics after all.
Dominic Fisher is from the Bath/Bristol area. After studying in Wales in the 70s he taught English in Turkey and Spain. He returned to Bristol and was published in a wide variety of magazines and anthologies in the 80s and 90s. English language teaching eclipsed poetry for some years, but he is now submitting for publication and in competitions again, with some recent success. He is married with one son.