At the Bluebird Hairstyling Salon
Now magazine proclaims:
“It’s war between Jen and Angelina”
“Dieting has destroyed your looks”
bluebirds flutter round Hollywood bulbs
basking in their fake suns,
the retro lamp, the genteel stacks
of china tea cups; shelved,
the trainee stylist all seeing
like an owl, with those big framed specs
all the young girls wear.
They talk kettle bells, ex-best friends
and getting toned for Ibiza
while I just sit, pretend to read.
She can’t find her scissors,
says “I swear there’s gremlins in here
stuff’s always getting lost – its odd”
and it is; when you misplace
like the girl I met at art college,
with the bluest eyes,
who could lie for England,
who was by turns a hand model
or an international spy
who glided up to her wedding
to ‘Dream a little dream’ in
a boat fashioned into a polystyrene swan,
rocking vintage lace,
who made plaster casts of her belly in pregnancy,
giant sunflowers out of crochet,
who saw me through the years
of broken hearts, impermanence and regret
and was so effortlessly more
everything than anyone I’d met
but who no longer buys gifts for my kids
at Christmas, or returns my calls
and is lost to me now,
like the mysterious world of women,
or a pair of scissors that couldn’t be traced,
that had somehow slipped
between another lady’s bag and the wall.
Looking for crocodiles
This is the river that looked so calm until she stepped in because she was tired and closed her eyes on Halloween when all the gauze of her witch’s costume fanned around and held her up (or the time before when she was looking for crocodiles)
And this is the call from school on the first day back when I believed his assurance:
“there’s no need to panic, she’s absolutely fine…” to arrive and find a tooth knocked through her lip where she’d fallen off the climbing frame.
While this is the open hinge of the safety pin, perfectly picked out, sitting bone white
inside her stomach back-lit on the X-ray slide, that soured her dad’s marathon triumph,
after she swallowed it just to see what “it tasted like”.
Or this the gap between the old diesel tank and the wall with the frog and mucky puddle where she got trapped when she somersaulted down the bank unseen
while we tried in vain to work out where she’d fallen, from her screams.
And this the hospital that couldn’t find any cause at a week old despite her temperature rising to 104, the lumbar puncture, the endless tests, the lack of rest or any kind of peace, with not even a cup of tea allowed on the children’s ward.
This the day that she was born when nothing foreshadowed the way ahead, when she slid out within an hour or so, no pain relief, this dream birth, this elfin girl
who ever since has made us beg,
This is why we can’t have nice things
It took just weeks to demolish the Bohemia,
the billboard’s silhouetted ladies writhing around poles
now buried beneath rubble, consigned to the dirt
but I wonder if they will rise in the night
in their heels, to dance on the bonnets of cars;
or if they too accepted defeat.
Outside Ferham School a woman boasts
“They won’t get me to work, can’t mek me”.
Aspirations are lost between Steel St, Holmes Lock
as generations draw dole cheques,
forget what it is to bring home a wage
as shame settles and stains like coal dust.
Resignation has been ingrained; trodden
into pavements like the puce stained floors
in the covered market loos can never quite get clean,
even the river’s going nowhere, silted up
with Farmfoods plastic bags, Tennents cans,
and shopping trolleys, the burden
it can’t shake off, while outside The Bridge
the lads are going two’s on fags,
waiting on jobs that don’t exist.
Midnight, Tesco’s car park, a woman
pulls down her leopard skin thong over
carcassed thighs, squats between cars for a piss.
Oh they can pretty it up, planting wild flowers
outside the Minster but it’s not enough,
the playgrounds are held together
with rust, graffiti, broken glass,
bus stops smashed in, litter bins
burnt to shrivelled black stumps,
a generation who believes
this is all they deserve, smash up
what even in the first place wasn’t much
with no honest way
of getting what they want;
austerity just means more of the same.
At a pub across town, on a broken window
in the ladies loo, a sign asserts:
“this is why we can’t have nice things”
preferring to announce the problem
than mend the broken glass.
Charlotte Ansell has two poetry collections published by Flipped Eye with a third forthcoming in April 2017.
Publications include Poetry Review, Mslexia, Now Then and Butcher’s Dog and anthologies including The Very Best of 52 anthology (Nine Arches Press, 2015) and WordLife (Wordlife, 2016). She was the winner of the Red Shed Open Poetry Competition, one of 6 finalists in the Fun Palaces Write Science competition in 2015 and winner of the Watermarks Poetry Competition 2016.