For The Many
you forced when you wanted
to punch and claw instead
The many lonely
syllables that passed
for conversation late, late, too late
For the many times I’ve wanted
to leave, tried to, and been whiplashed
back by your terror and despair
For the many days of comfort
and quiet love
and drowning in each other
If you put a frog in cold water
and slowly increase the heat,
it will never try to escape
For the many boiled frog days
of silent regret and resentment
the many wild dreams
and daring days of sexual Olympics
For the many messages that ended with a full stop.
For the many seconds that make
a minute, and minutes
an hour, and hours
half a decade of twitching
between alone and trapped
For the many skin flakes of mine,
that have had to rest
with yours on the windowsill,
even when you wouldn’t speak to me
After Manchester my mind baulks
can't dejunk my thoughts of fear,
lost all belief in this age,
with too many people hating.
I think of airmen whose self-belief
flung them into the conflict,
those few who childishly felt sure
they would win for the many
against such odds; and yet they did.
How, as children we kept getting
back on bikes we’d fallen from
it never occurred to us
we wouldn’t learn, couldn’t
master the machines.
In this age we’ve let
differences obscure our kin,
glass in windows smear, the weeds
cover all order, the common roots of truth.
If I straddle my bike again,
my mind falls straight
into the shock of contact,
the harsh grasp of hate,
I expect to be run over.
Yet we are still upright,
a push could get us rolling
downhill but forwards,
could push us upwards
into cleaner air.
"It's ridiculous these days Laura. All these kids going off to university, thinking they know it all, getting into debt..."
I'm emptying her commode, cleaning it, checking my watch because they've been on at me about keeping to my time-sheet but Eunice does like to chat. Usually I'm all ears, nodding here and there, accepting that our views are bound to differ - she is 89 - but today she hits a nerve...
"... My grandchildren are just as bad. I always tell them money doesn't grow on trees you know..."
I put the brown plastic seat back on the commode.
"... And it doesn't matter who they are either. I mean, look at these families on benefits - single parents a lot of them - they all expect the same treatment as everyone else..."
I wash my hands. Grit my teeth.
"... And it's the likes of you and me that suffer, Laura. I mean, you've got kiddies to think of. You've got re-spon-sib-il-it-ies." She pronounces each syllable with steely resolve.
I consider telling her how difficult it's been for me on my own: that it's no joyride being a single parent these days, despite what Eunice may read in the 'Daily Malevolent.'
"... I mean, the likes of you and me never needed to swan off to university or wanted to..."
There was that nerve again. I was becoming rattled, against my better judgement but then I'd only just waved goodbye to my eldest - the first in my family to go to uni.
"... You just get out there and get yourself a job, don't you?..."
I'm in the kitchen, wiping up, muttering to myself, 'Not job, Eunice, jobs...' because I've got 3 of them.
"... because you have to..."
I'm still muttering, '... because this one doesn't pay enough to live on...'
"... You just get on with it, don't you?"
I pluck a smile from somewhere and appear at the bathroom door where Eunice is brushing her hair. "Yes, Eunice. You just get on with it."
I sit at her little kitchen table and begin to fill out the morning report. It's a beautiful day and the sun spilling through the window falls on my navy blue uniform and warms me. I begin to feel reassured, recharged.
I write that I have washed, wiped and put away.
"All these subjects they study that are no use to anyone..."
I write that I have put the clothes on the airer.
" ... when what we actually need in this country is people who aren't afraid of work..."
I write that I have emptied and cleaned the commode.
"... Real graft. Grafters, that's what we need..."
I write that Eunice seems bright this morning.
"... not these scroungers. No wonder this country's in the state it's in..."
I write that we had a lovely chat and make a note of the time.
"... Anyway. I must let you get off, my dear. Will it be you tomorrow or will it be that Kerry-Anne again?"
"It won't be me, Eunice. Not tomorrow. I've got a few days off. I'm going to visit my eldest at university because I'm missing her loads and I've got so much to ask her. I'm interested, you see. I'm interested in it all and I wish I'd had the chance, Eunice, because when I wake up and draw the curtains each morning my horizon stretches from next door's shed to the flaking guttering on the old co-op and I'd like my kids to see further than their own backyard."
Eunice has been cleaning her dentures and is putting them back in. I don't think she's heard a word.
"See you tomorrow then, dear," she says as I lock the door and leave her safe inside.