Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Finding poetry with my sisters

Sarah 1987
I was lucky enough to have a sister, in fact, I nearly had two, but my parents' first daughter was premature and died after a day. When I started to have my own children, I really wanted a girl, so my children would have what I had, a sister. When I was on the MA I wrote a sequence of poems about my sister Sarah, who died thirteen years ago, not just about her death although that was a seismic shock for the whole family, but our relationship, the times we played together as children, that enabled us to play as adults. One of my great memories of Sarah is one hot day, when the wind was up and the waves mad, we left our two babies in the care of a friend and nipped to the beach for a quick swim. It was exhilarating, and for an hour, we left responsibility and exhaustion behind and played in the waves as we had as children.

For the poetry collection, I imagined what life would be like in our fifties and sixties, if we were all alive, by contriving an imaginary reunion. This is a very early draft:

Reunion

Coat brush each other as we overflow spindly chairs.
Jo rests her bag (leather, neat) in her lap as if someone would steal it,
Sarah puts hers (hand sewn, gaudy) on the floor for all to admire,
my rucksack (patchwork, overflowing) hangs behind me.

We laugh, compare children, order drinks.
One coffee, milk foamed into fluff, a shot of hazelnut,
one hot chocolate oozing with cream and chocolate curls,
one Earl Grey with fat slices of lemon and no sugar.

We are between lovers, husbands, jobs.
Jo’s rings clink against her cup, she wears her history
like her vintage blouse, with elegance
and a touch of theatre.

Cakes arrive, fragrant and ornamented, on bone china
barely chipped. I nibble an éclair, lick chocolate like a cat.
Jo spreads jam and cream on a scone, closes her eyes as she bites.

Sarah almost touches each cake, weighs up tastiness
then delicately extracts a doughnut, dissects it with a knife,
and eats each morsel, dipping it in fallen sugar.

We hide our scars. Caesarean, appendix, hip replacement.
Wrists scarified in a tide of relief.
A chicken pox scar, centred white in a tanned forehead
like a bindi, like an assassin’s mark.  

We don’t talk about the past, let memory
sharpen our tongues with childhood rage.
Or remember the vortex of depressions.
We can’t talk about the future.
Two of us are dead. 


Oh, and just a reminder that Kissing Frankenstein and other stories is available here, on National Flash Fiction day, and I have two stories in it!

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