20 April 2008

Stuck with a Sweet

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,

says Grandpa.

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.

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