I bit into the unnoted plum, expecting sharp
disappointment or at best, tolerable
near-sweetness. My thumb
left an indent which gave me some hope –
bruised fruit isn’t a violent
assault on the tongue. But that bite –
I’ll never forget that bite – flesh sliding
against gum, the fruit neither resisting
nor clinging – and the surprise, oh that,
of a world where a nectarine isn’t a plum.
The daughter that you wished for
was younger than I am
with longer hair
and certainly prettier.
She was smart but
not as clever as I am
nor as interested in esoteric books
and words like esoteric
though she’d read 50 Shades of Grey.
She went with her godmother
to have her nails done
and cooked a huge roast on Sundays
and had three or four babies
by the same man
and none of them had any kind of
abnormality congenital or willed.
She voted obviously for women died
but she wasn’t what you’d call political not
as such. She drank dry white wine
but never to excess and her skin
showed she’d never smoked or used
drugs or had her baby cut out by
a surgeon listening to YMCA.
She didn’t trust women
like me but had loads of girlfriends
mostly from school
and she never slept with them
and they all had babies too.
And the daughter that you wanted
I can’t conjure that daughter from this pile
of straw. Can’t plait her golden hair
as it grows from this wheel.
Didn’t have one name to guess but so many
I swallowed my bag of chicks like a snake.
On my life, I did try. But I pricked my finger
fatally – I think fatally – in the attempt.
She will never come now.
It is late, even on this longest night.
Still I sit here in the dark, in the light;
I sit here still and I spin and I spin and I spin.
I remember the apple.
The knock could have been anybody’s
knock, the voice an indefinite pitch
but I can describe each line
of red, the way it still races the
green in calcified
blood down the inside of my eye.
I’d been half-expecting you.
They’re trained, those voices
those soft bland hands –
God forbid knocks might sound
homesick or demanding
or in any way specific.
So I agree that yes, those aren’t your
three sharp raps and yes, I understand
that distant enunciation
and I run to wait for a bus
which might or might not come.
A woman squeezes into my shelter
so close, I can smell her apple
sweet and unbearable as hope.
Saliva soaps my mouth and I
nearly lean over to
take a bite as though
she were my lover.
I would bite her for one taste
of that apple.
But then it’s gone
the core flaccid, brown, already over.
I could buy an apple but
it wouldn’t be this one.
I take out my half-bottle of Jack
to rinse my teeth, my tongue
to murder this dead impulse
to bite, have bitten an apple
that doesn’t, never did
belong to me.
At Glasgow Airport
We shuffle queue oppressed until
I place socked feet on two yellow
approximations hot as panic
when that greyed woman who keeps
her smile deep in her pocket
or maybe the leg of her knickers
tells me I can change queues.
Number one’s free, she unsmiles.
But I can’t see number one
and I can’t understand where I’d splay my feet
and I can’t make myself move into that space
and I have to live here now.
All my life that rolled-tight gaze
above the missing smile.
I’m autistic, I say.
The man on the Citi 3 leaned in
to chat and I could tell
he was reading my ink –
his nose about
from my tattooed collarbone.
Then he spoke, as if reading aloud
though I can assure you he wasn’t.
The kids all say fuck now,
they get it from them foreigners
I don’t think that’s likely
what with English not being-
Yeah, you might be right.
I feared he was going to claim
blindess and go for braille.
I’ve had a brain haemorage, he told
the hornet on my right shoulder.
The hornet didn’t reply, so I murmured
something to cover its rudeness.
I don’t think he noticed the difference.
Timmy, he told me his name was –
a name for a dog or a little boy
a name shockingly comical
a name in which I didn’t quite believe.
He was one them, you know,
who wants to be a spy. Secret
cameras everywhere. Was so funny.
But all I could think was that Timmy
wasn’t the name for a grown-up man.