You’ve seen her here before, but never so clearly
as now amongst the unsheltered picnic benches
damp with an afternoon’s rain. She’s drinking cheap cider,
red pigment bleeding from her lips onto the cold glass.
What? She’s asking, her doe eyes turned upwards
into yours. Perhaps you look like the outline of her
father. It’s just your face in the moonlight. She laughs
down into her boots, sloshes her pint over the
tabletop. They ask me for ID every time. And your
hair is greying, going, the skin of your old man’s hands
folding into deep grooves. Where’d a pretty girl like
you get callouses like those? She holds out two fingers
before her, draws them back into her chest. But
of course it’s Orion on the pint glass, the design beneath
her lipstick stain, the kind of boy you’d been at that
age: strong-armed, sleeping on the floor of the forest
with the thinnest twigs of girls tucked under your torso.
The M.C. calls you in from the night sky to the
microphone, and maybe if her cheeks hadn’t risen to
such a colour, if some lad or other had been there
with her, you wouldn’t have done it – yet you draw,
in baritone, her naked image slipping into the water
to cleanse the paint from its features, soothe the bruise
against her right breast and leave her flawless beneath
your gaze as you brush the curtain aside ever so gently.
She doesn’t need to speak. Just downs the drink and
strides out into the open air, her calves and knuckles
tight, brows low over her eyes. Don’t say Have you
ever thought about dating someone a little older,
someone with a bit of money? Stop kidding yourself.
You’re another old fool upstairs in the pub,
wishing words would make him a more impressive beast.
I want to take you to Crosby beach
to watch that cast iron legion disappear
into the Irish sea.
You can’t swim there,
the water’s colder than the air in February and
you already wear two pairs of trousers
smoking on the fire escape,
hand cupped around your tiny flame
to keep it lit
while your fingers ice down in their bones,
but I think you’d like it there
watching the tide wade in towards them
You’re a warm island boy and
I know this place doesn’t feel like home yet.
Spend fifteen minutes in the water
in this season
and it will stop your heart,
twenty a year get caught out like that,
so we became a nation
of sailors instead of swimmers.
We went in search of oceans
clear enough to see the bottom,
climates where the air never cuts your cheeks
and fills the wounds with the cold salt of sleet,
and felt the wanting still.
We belong to these dirt and pebble beaches,
silent, empty, thankless
as their waves heavy with the weight of duty
pull the wreckage onto shore:
Shipping containers full of motorcycles,
and all the Gods that strayed from their sacred rivers,
the way all that cocaine washes up
with the steady breath
of the tide just as ceaselessly on yours.
I want to tell you that I’m sorry
but I’m not sure what for –
some old sin
as the pulse in my neck
that you kiss and kiss,
this mark of yours rising
against my pale skin.
Let’s call this continental drift.
Amy Kinsman is a poet and playwright from Manchester, England. As well as being the founding editor of Riggwelter Press, they are associate editor at Three Drops From A Cauldron and the host of Gorilla Poetry in Sheffield. Their work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Picaroon Poetry, Prole, Rust + Moth, Up The Staircase Quarterly and Valley Press.