I’m splashing about in Kindle Direct Publishing, making a mess, trying to keep it light and dismissing stress – don’t think I’ve used any real swear words, yet. Doing April-poem-a-day this year sent me down this path; I sat up one sleepless night with the idea of settling the best of my old previously published poems in a book.
These poems are set in their decades, the 60s being full of childish memories and teenage troubles with a hint of the history of the time. The collection is thick with memoir but there are oddities thrown in; it’s a bit like a packed suitcase where other minds might boggle at the mix. In the 70s and 80s innocence meets up with experience and discovery, and the 90s are steeped in those nasty political upheavals. My intention was to paint a picture with old published poems so there has been a lot of dragging in and chucking out. I think these poems should live together, forever, and hope readers will feel the same.
Some of these poems were written almost thirty years ago, when I was an energetic and wild woman – impulsive. I’m a different being now and most of my recent work doesn’t blend into this picture. If I don’t allow them space in the light they might languish in a document deep in a file system forever. There’s just something about swimming in nostalgia; here I am writing thirty years ago about the previous thirty years, loving the images and characters. That carnival is well and truly over and all the songs sung, but selective memory is a fantasy in itself. The dating of these poems (in this setting) relates to the time in the poem not the time of writing, except when it does.
Of course I forgot to include the copyright notice in the first attempt, and made such a mess of the paperback process that I decided to make a few changes. It’s good to have a little space to see how a project works out before seriously advertising the product; I nipped away one and added four re-formatted poems…and changed the cover. I know poetry won’t pay the rent but the poems are better out than in, lying around like old sloths, and, I seem to be in tidying mode which, apparently, has me re-writing, re-formatting/structuring old work…and it is interesting fun. I have achieved something and think that satisfaction will be guaranteed.
…and, here is the link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B071NPRZP8
Finally selecting a time for a memoir escapade, so this is the first draft of Chapter 1 of what might be titled, THE WAY WE WERE…because there will be music riffling throughout.
* * * *
1975 and the livin’ was easy. We were easy riders of the storm, Cracklin’ Rosie an’ me, doin’ the hustle, the funky moped, foxes on the run, jive-talkin’ girls, on the trail of the lonesome man… ‘cause love was the drug.
We arrived at the hotel, introduced ourselves, were given keys to a room and directions to the staff quarters. The mansion on a hill looked impressive. Further inspection brought our attention to a notice stating that the building was derelict…not fit for habitation – condemned. Our room had two single beds, which we immediately pushed together for space. The walls grabbed our eyes; it had been covered in pictures of food – we were bloody starving and skint…of course there was enough in the purses for a couple of lagers down the local pub. Unpacking only the necessary: record player, the records and the radio, make-up was topped up moolighting with Leo Sayer, then we were out in a tiny coastal town in plenty of time for last orders. Rosie and me, she and I, slightly-practised non-virgins looking for adventure where the North Sea sculpts the east coast of Scotland. North Berwick, previously unmentioned in the Glaswegian vernacular.
Normally, we would have made an entrance in a strange bar, me with my fabulous red hair, Rosie and her raucous laugh, but knackered were the bodies that had hustled themselves out of Glasgow with huge suitcases and every penny we could scrape together from our last jobs. So there was no bending across pool tables or sexing it up dancing a bump in the middle of the lounge, just a languid satisfaction in a successful plan executed. In the morning we would be re-invented as chambermaids in the biggest hotel on the sea-front…and, food should be part of the deal.
I am surprised to find that I am not myself: this sodden soul is blowing herself to bits, has driven her nostrils red and crusty, and now owns a deep, sexy voice…except when she’s coughing – though is not yet fit to bust. Number4 grandson was hardly in the house six hours before my sneezing fits began – he’d been coughing up his lungs and deeply sniffing a million snotters…I thought about telling him that everything he dragged up there would be sliding down the back of his throat some time soon, but I settled for telling him to blow his brains out. Why don’t boys like blowing their noses? Number2 son has a little line on his nose from that palm-to-nose sniff in his childhood.
It might be going on for twenty years since I had a cold – does this mean I’m getting old, really decrepit and will be sinking into the bog sooner rather than later? I want to be 108! Of course I’m still working, and only the loss of voice can change that unless I learn to tap intelligently on the phone and, that clients could understand what I was saying. Wednesday is my day off, and I have a cinema card, and was planning to go this week but coughing through films is considered reason enough for murder; I’ll stay in, out of the rotten rain, and cook stovies, followed by custard and bargain/reduced raspberries. All hail winter.
(for my daughter)
Cosmetic junkie, social drinker, and
breakfast don’t live here; there’s no lover, pipe
n slippers or ritual sex to grind
my bones; no Sunday lunch, afternoon naps,
praying, confessions, and no eating of
hosts. My life wears different hats, salts its own
ideas into food…lunch and dinner took
a walk some time ago. I’m not obsessed
with plumbing or counting fat content, carbs
or calories so don’t be worrying
about me. I’m lost in happy hours, and
skinny people die too. But, I might
invite a vampire in for a drink, though
forever could be a tad traumatic.
My most shameful moment (or the only one I’ll admit to) happened sometime in 1974, I think. I was working in a golf club as a barmaid-come-waitress-come-slave but I quite liked it and the boss was an attractive older man with streaks of white hair at his temples. Jo Fitch (who must be dead by now so I will use her name) and I were waiting ’til the last car left the parking lot so we could lock up – sometimes these golfers would stick their heads round the kitchen door and sweet-talk us into making them toasted cheese. It was black dark but must’ve been warm because the window was pulled right down from the top. Nobody asked for anything. We sat at the table finishing our coffee, our bags and jackets beside us. Something came in the window.
Before we knew it, a clicking had set up as hundreds of black beetles landed on the table, counters and floor. Of course I must’ve done the dance of the get-it-off-me-crazy-woman as I raced to the door into the back corridor. I don’t remember having any of them in my hair – this was forty years ago! But I know I would’ve still been doing the dance as I dragged the door closed behind me. Yes, I held onto the door, and no, I wouldn’t open it again to let Jo out too. But I don’t think she was as scared as me…she was about thirty years older, with grown-up kids. So yes, she was probably a lot more sensible than my dumb twenty. I vaguely remember her telling me it was safe to come back in just a few minutes later, that they had all gone. I peeked around the door as if I didn’t believe her but they had gone. I’d never heard of flying beetles before, or seen any since – thank the gods. And, after all these years I remember the clicking; it was like black rain.
I am tough, and can stand up to anything…I’d take a bullet for my kids and grandkids, maybe even friends, but throw insects at me and I melt out the nearest door.