unread poem

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In a pub, in a sad Kentish town on the brim of winter

I’m looking at lists of poems for funerals

And it’s just like my wedding all over

Great feverish feelings

Like unwelcome relatives

When really love is something tiny, and held in the palm

In a one star constellation.

None of them know about you. And neither do I.

I used to listen to Nina Simone in the car on my way to see you

Because I was 21 and still dreaming of love half-heartedly

And don’t tell but I would be doing 100 mph in a Fiat full of crystals

In the prison of youth. That you could not enter,

Like the river that goes by the rock in a whirl of bands and clothes and exams.

And I barely remember my childhood, which was short and angry. But you once,

full of winter bones, picked up a pair of chips

and put them up your nostrils, and clowned like a beacon of light,

and made me laugh for ten years.

When you were finally old

you lived in a room full of cat pictures

– you loved cats. And my mother, who never quits and never weeps without apologising,

filled your shrinking life to bursting with cat calendars, cat clocks, cuddly cats, paint-by-number cats, velour cats and plastic cats and totem spirit cats, cat gods and cat goddesses and cat angels and cat friends

all watching us with their neon plastic eyes like the ancestors –

no wonder, you thought I was a spy. And so you’d ask me in order:

How’s your mum?

How’s your nanna?

And why are you watching me?

I visited you like a selfish wind. Like a catholic still hoping for redemption, in the weight of a wheelchair uphill.

So when you died I heard the news in my campervan outside a corner shop in Brighton on a road where I’d been to some parties, and after I finished crying I went to buy milk, which is what your skin reminded me of so that I wanted to pour it in the oil of the road and stand in it barefoot. That morning, Michael had been in the hospital to start work on getting better, and so your death left us like spiders in a web spun between beams, ears cold, faces wet. And what I have from you now is two pairs of tiny scissors, and so when I sew I sew for you, wherever you are.

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