This poem came out of the excellent poetry workshop I attended last Friday evening, run by poet Anna Woodford from Newcastle. The workshop was given through the Open Univeristy here in Brussels; Anna is a Creative Writing tutor. My colleague Julitta made me go with her, and I am very pleased that I did.
You don’t like sweets. Grandpa
always gives you sweets.
You tell him no thanks,
you tell him not to,
but he thinks you’re some weird kid because of that
and then you feel guilty, he’s your grandpa,
an old guy on his last legs
so why don’t you just take the sweet?
Good girl, that’s a good girl,
The sweet is warm from his pocket, the wrapper
like cellphane tulle. You untwist it, certain
your mother can hear it
all the way
where from wherever she is,
so you finish it quick like she does when she pulls off your bandaids –
one quick rip;
and pop the sweet into your mouth, nodding
“fank you, grandpa…”
The sweet is thick, it’s an old man’s sweet,
bland and a little soft,
but one good thing you discover is that
you can chew it; you won’t have to suck it for ages
and then spit it out,
which you normally have to do when grandpa’s not looking.
The problem with chewing however is that you're stuck,
your mouth's really full,
and you hear your mother, already, saying,
“What have you got in that mouth?
You’ll ruin your teeth, yong lady,
if you keep this up.
And where are you getting this candy from anyway, missy?”
“Gramfa,” you say, your mouth still quite full,
too full to properly speak;
you don’t mean to get gramps in trouble –
not any more trouble, at least,
but too late, she stomps off, and
you think, this is it,
now you've done it,
this is the real thing,
and you tentatively cover your ears with your hands,
but then, nothing happens.
And when nothing keeps on happening, for a while,
you sneak down the hall and the kitchen stairs
and then you see her – your mother,
not with grandpa like you thought but quite alone
with her back to the house,
smoking a cigarette.
She sits in the swing you disdain,
claim you’re too big for.
She's pushing herself around
by the ball of one foot.
You know because you’ve done that before, just like that.
And you don’t know what to do now,
you’re stuck with the taste of the sweet,
but you're pretty sure
that you shouldn't disturb your mother;
so you watch as the smoke from the cigarette
curls itself, silently, upward.