Fiona Sinclair is the editor of the on line magazine Message in a Bottle. Her seventh collection Slow Burner will be published this August by Smokestack publications. She lives in Kent with her husband and an imaginary dog.
Despite your bulldog breed admiration for Churchill,
you have never visited Chartwell.
I suggest a day trip, with ulterior motive
to recreate sepia photo on our landing table,
where my father’s gangly body, cancer already ticking down to detonation,
is folded into Churchill’s favourite seat beside koi pond,
my 9-year-old self hovering at his side,
gamine hair making me half the kid he wanted.
Garden first I tramp ahead tutting as prankster sign posts
seem to be in cahoots with your aversion to being photographed.
Internally stamp foot, when we find after years of photo opportunities
the frail chair is now out of bounds, much like my father.
Nevertheless, suborn passing visitor to take make do photo, chair in back ground.
My reasoning behind this determined restaging, obscure to me as objects in a Turner.
Afterwards, over thermos and sandwiches in car park,
I’d have liked your dad: yarned for hours no doubt
about cricket you both played to county standard,
but were bowled out of trials by wrong accent.
Both talent for Pythonesque stitch making humour,
your repertoire un PC characters nudge nudging my PC views.
father mowing lawn in mother’s hot pants and a wedding hat.
Your temper at bookies T and Cs, the fucking printer…
sending me scuttling into kitchen until your mood unclenches.
But at 7, could only sob in teeth of father’s rage at
my unruly handwriting, messy room…
Dad blowing earnings on sports car accessory for glamorous mother,
your Treat yourself after Cheltenham windfall.
Both secretive as spies, my father’s colluding chums
You’ve just missed him, unreachable in orchards, fields,
you disappearing into recesses internet, two of you covering
your walk on the wild side tracks with easy black and white lies.
Six years ago, when you finally arrived like a parcel lost in the post,
my eleventh-hour sigh of relief saved from spinster shame,
basked in friends’ your blooming testament to novelty feeling loved,
Only after marriage, when best behaviours relaxed,
did I realise that I had text book married my father.
My teenage fantasies gave birth to one of each,
imagination knitting them names and narratives,
until reality full time fostering my own mother.
Foot-loosing from her funeral towards every invitation,
spent my fecundity on degree, profession, books…
Entering last chance 40s husband light, friends unsolicited
examples celebrities who had late cropped,
but whilst they paused in shops crooning over baby grows
I strode straight past to new season’s ladieswear.
Now despite my November marriage,
no biblical Sarah shocker for me.
In truth I find nurturing a garden strains my back,
bearing shopping stiffens legs.
But even so, given our combined dead-end families,
sometimes I scroll Facebook feeds like a one- armed bandit
past other people’s beaming full houses.
Yet despite 4 years Maudsley straightening me
from my own parents crooked parenting,
suspect I would either grant offspring every wish,
over seasoned the praise,
or mother’s beauty skipping a generation,
father’s sportiness leap frogging to son or daughter,
would trigger in me, family’s aberrant chromosome, jealousy.
But at parties, difficult to ease my way into stranger’s small talk
as they top trump kids’ grades, gap year, graduation,
get away with smiles and nods until ambushed by Do you have kids?
My bullet No discharges accidentally like a gun that kills conversation
Sometimes though yummy mummy’s bold Aw you couldn’t?
wrong foots me and I hide behind shrugged response that
they misinterpret, taking umbrage on behalf sterile sisters,
assuming I would not curtail my travelling for needy toddler,
or suspend my trophy hunt career to taxi teenagers.
Then I am unsexed from proper woman to transvestite, harpy, witch.
Spanish Dancer’s sleight of hand.
Spanish music and rat- tat of dance shoes siren
draws us on through Cadiz convolution
to square where flamenco dancer with black hair
and black dress cuts a capering shadow.
Tourists’ ovation emboldens her to trespass off
statutory 3ft square spot on portable plywood
purpose cut for flamenco acoustics
onto plaza flagstones broader stage.
Freeing her up to more flamboyant routines,
presented with beauty queen fixed smile,
but in her eyes a dervish bliss.
Audience, mostly Brits off the boat
red faces under floppy hats,
gym sweating under baggy clothing,
feel ourselves portly scare crows
comparison her dancer’s spare body
that can carry off frothy flamenco costume.
Her souvenir doll prettiness at odds with
our Anglo Saxon plain jane inheritance.
Her body obedient to her commands where ours
would disobey with arthritic complaints
if we attempted such extravagant armography,
ferocious finger snapping, relentless heel taps.
But as Carmen accompaniment climaxes on boombox,
under cover our applause, she curtsey stoops
to change tracks, and I spot, sleight of hand swift,
her double draw on asthma inhaler.