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Flight from 'Track Record'

 

1.

The estate will not be cleaved, sheep blackened or hunting routes

halted by clattering iron – Cheshire’s ‘old money’ bellows from the library.

 

I was a cuckoo child, left by a consumptive widow

on the wing. My nest a tied-cottage that already housed

a pair of weaving daughters. But a boy does not need looks

to marry, I had a body that could work the land

and survive a journey on a train … though I’d yet to see one.

 

Paler than on her wedding night a corseted Lady, pumping gossip

into her constricted heart, learns how her womb could explode under speed.

 

Safe with our cows and cabbages we did not fear machinery

until the ‘top hats’ came, measured up our steepest gradients

and sang like thrushes their chorus of steam – the power

that could smash the slow way we moved within our shells

and pull us wriggling from the soil.

 

A Young Lord, schooled only in gambling and buggery, enters politics

and his family raise a toast ‘to the railways and their generous compensation’.

  

2.

I am cursed by my past complaints:

milking at first light,

the inadequate plough,

poaching in the dank woods.

 

There is an uncommon mourning

for what was never your own.

 

Inside the mills of Manchester

we call the countryside

from its contradictions.

The overseers, like crows,

have a memory for faces.

 

They recognise our youngest

not from her missing fingers

but by the look she wears

since they came, as a murder,

to cut off her hair.

  

3.

Behind the blanket

that divides our damp basement

 

my sisters,

dreaming of screech owls,

 

are woken by the first locomotive

pulling into Liverpool Road.



Watching Promise...

 

across The Square,

from under the tabby nets,

it seems a client has left her a gift.

My guess is a filthy finger nail

got married to her oily hip

and fathered some pus just out of reach

because she’s using some dirty dance-moves

to squeeze it.

 

Promise knows this isn’t like the hand-jobs

we give, off the kerb, ending in a heavy spurt.

This is a wound that’ll spread

and come back weeping across an angry border.

It reminds me of those new girls,

when they stray into a foreign postcode.

 

Promise needs to put on the slippers 

that make her look free again

(though she’s formidable in heels)

and pay a visit to the prissy chemist

 

who will be relieved (not,) to be asked

for ‘Morning Afters’ or a cream for ‘crabs’,

though she’ll still dispense that look

she reserves for an entire continent

watching Promise, bounce her box-braids

out of there with a crash

and the door-bell pinging.

 

This is our healing-time.

My friend rubs antiseptic

into the wet of her back-fat as The Square

takes a communal draw to the lungs,

watching Promise unlock her milky windows

to lie with her legs wide open

and let in some air.

   


 Baby B and the Baby Walker   from 'Hush'

  

On release day

I will buzz around the bottom shelves

at Sainsburys

See what the ‘outside’ does for shoes

 

My wings are clipped

I only see Wednesday

from the waist up

Its belt has not been confiscated

 

I am tasting freedom on my back

as my mother did

in the Mexican heat

 

Queen of the conjugal visit

My father brought her street food,

lust, a promise

of life in the making

 

I harvest traffic fumes,

supermarket scanners

For my coloured hive,

with its maternal droning

 

I am learning to fly

The sky can be opened

with a single key

 

Honey and seasoning

are the hardest things to steal.