White Girl, Black Music
Under pressure to answer. Beatles or Stones? Mod or Rocker?
A baby Mod with pin straight hair and wonky fringe,
desperate to be neat, not to sweat inside my parka.
Upstairs in the club, Wednesday nights when pop is all we drink,
under the influence of Trevor Gibson in Sta-Press and Crombie,
his Mam’s chiffon scarf round his neck,
I borrow Trev’s stone-cord Levi jacket and take it to Barry Island,
sleep with Lynne in the back of her Dad’s van on the way down.
We tumble out, almost women.
My Girl, the Otis version, is on the jukebox in the café;
a skinhead dances with the black lad from Dudley.
Lynne’s eyes are dark with felt-tip eyeliner.
Later I meet a lad from Kineton, Warwickshire.
He tells me he knows the black lad from Dudley. I call him a liar.
We lie on a pull-down bed in a caravan, studying.
Biology, Geography, Sociology.
Judee Sill is 70
Ditch the codeine, let the ache ride out
on sleighs of cocaine,
bring back Papa and his yellow cockatoos,
stay here in Oakland.
Don’t let your mother be the excuse,
make her your Muse.
Blow back her shallow breath.
Gun in your hand,
your heart packed with fear,
choose as disguise
a witch’s mole and wire-rim glasses.
Let your hair be a shiver of rain.
Under wraps, drawing blood, you craved
men who made you.
Daddy and David, warmed in a spoon
mixed in your brain.
Had you made a cleaner decision,
you would be here
with fine vellum skin, arthritic fingers,
the hair on your mole
wired and unruly, your soft eyes milky,
picking on a steel string guitar.
I remember the day
a school trip to Lincoln
the rippled whisper
they found him dead.
It made me sad
to think of him
floating face down
but when I met him
in Barnsley Market
a week or two later
he was cheerful,
in a way you wouldn’t imagine
from the stony concentration
of holding his guitar neck;
but there he was, on the cheese
stall in his khaki overall
his name embroidered
his long slim fingers
spread across the marble slab,
his hand pulling tight and slow
on the cheese wire,
teasing the Cheddar
with the skill
of a true musician.
Diverted to Lincoln
I see a child at a window, one wistful Saturday,
his time stretching out like the railway line,
he waits for his mum to finish her coffee.
She feels as rushed as this train,
needs her moment of peace,
but it’s her weekend to have the boy.
I’m diverted by the thought of a dad.
This morning he had held his daughter fast
against the rocking Tube, kissing her hair.
Between Marble Arch and Oxford Street,
I wondered how carefully he had planned their afternoon.
Would he take an escalator to a top floor café
for cake and Cola, get her home late,
exasperate his ex?
I do him no justice, his still-wife may adore
his greasily receding hairline,
she may, even now, be layering lasagne
for a welcome home tea.
It would be neat for my purpose if
Coffee Mum and Greasy Dad could meet
somewhere along this line.
It will never happen;
engineering work is due to finish soon.
Janet Dean was born in Barnsley and lives in York. Her poetry has appeared in print in a number of anthologies and magazines, including Skein (Templar, 2014), Ours edited by Maureen Duffy (Fantastic Books Publishing, 2013), Hysteria 3 (The Hysterectomy Association, 2014) and Ariadne’s Thread, and online in The Morning Star, Message in a Bottle and York Mix. She was shortlisted in the Bridport Prize in 2012, and commended in the Stanza Poetry Competition in 2015.