John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry
2011 John Tripp Award for Spoken Poetry
If we were still talking
what would I say?
Would we make it count,
exchanging lifelines in short, sharp bundles of breath
like over-zealous scuba-divers sharing a mouthpiece:
sometimes I wake up cradling my shoulder-blades like fallen fledglings dreaming the way you bit your fingers
our unborn child said Dad today and it hurt
Or would we make small-talk
over cups of steadily steaming tea,
circling our swollen past
with triggerfingers taped to the palms of hands that once held each other
but now hold out,
stuffed into pockets or gloves or fiddling incessantly with
beermats and hairbands and much-rolled receipts?
Would we talk about the papers
and the passing clouds
and the prick in your office who never stops talking about his
I like to think not.
I like to think I would say the things I never would.
I would tell you to
stop telling yourself that you're scared of children
(you are no more your father's son than
I would thank you for every time you woke me up
at illustrious four am
to tell me you were lonely
and ask what I was wearing -
I was lonely too.
I would make you see the murderous beauty of your mistakes
bursting with the arterial energy of an infant's finger painting
You left me waiting, and waiting, and waiting
in a pool of poster paint green till all that was left of me
was a crick
in my neck
from glancing out of the kitchen window.
For three years have I loved in the conditional tense.
A subjunctive life of woulds and weres and the words
As if you would be standing behind the front door, waiting.
As if three years of personal history
could be overturned by a one-girl revolution,
talking to a room full of strangers as if it were you.
Your first love is like your first hit;
it lingers in the last, obstinate drops in the bottle
that you need to fill your glass.
You lay, together, the yellow brick road of your love
only to watch the colour fade, each new hand in yours
begets another set of muddy footprints.
I say the same goes for songs.
Since my dungaree days nothing really hit the spot like
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot”
I parted my pink, popping-candy-peppered pout
around that palisade of “P”s till I dreamed in pink hotels
and big yellow taxis,
awoke to the sound of that screen door slam
night in, night out.
One night walking with my father I made confession of my obsession:
I said “Daddy,
why don't we make toothpaste machines?”
He didn't get it either, but I had this childhood dream
of a toothpaste dispenser.
Imagine them queueing in Tesco
clutching their coiled Colgate Total Care
tube for life
ready to refill, screwtop nozzles fixed like lips
at automated nipples, suckling and swelling
with another three weeks' worth of fluoride freshness,
ready to rewind, one Care at a time and
this was how I was going to save the world but
as the world turns
the girl turns around and
challenges, in the voice of a woman,
the words that once opened her butterfly mind.
Just like the song, it gets personal.
Personal pronouns to be precise.
She says “They paved paradise?
You think you can say that,
standing there, with your boarding pass in your back pocket
and your hotel key in hand?
You are like the child who hides
behind his mittens
thinking that if he cannot see
he is safe. We are unsafe.
We paved paradise and put up a parking lot
Eve pisses in the corner with a spliff in her personal pot spot
while Adam, fresh from waxing the windscreen,
bolts forbidden fruit from the pay and display machine.
Scared of sunshine, we papered the windows
with postcards of things forgotten –
or else neglected because the scientists tell me
we never truly forget anything.
We just put it out of mind.
Like madmen, we have put the world outside out of mind, singing
“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”
Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got?
Copyright: Naomi Alderson