The Blow-Wow Shop 10

Page 6 Sue Hubbard


You always leave the sink
stippled with black stubble;
a tidemark of drying foam
beached on white porcelain.
Yet even as I Jiff it clean,
sluice the bowl of debris,
polish plug and taps,
we are back in that cold bathroom,
you standing shiveringinside your Ladybird airtex vest,
towel draped prize-fighter-style
around small shoulders,
as acrid fumes smart our eyes,
gag in our throats and you try
to shove me off, resist
the vicious comb
as it ploughs furrows through
your noxious, tousled hair;
the sink filling with a shower
of snowy eggs and broken black bodies.
After I'd shampoo
you clean with a scent
of Pine Wood or Apple Glades,
a halo of suds 
ringing your bowed head


You hardly ever see them now, banned from every pub and bar,
except outside on the pavement's edge, girls with bare midriffs 
and mottled legs in minis, shivering in the cold, taking a drag,
or office workers in the Square Mile, their shoulders hunched 
against the chill, insisting on a lunchtime thrill of just another fag.
And pipes? Well, who remembers those? How easily it comes back
to me, my father standing by the fire, the spills, 
the blade for scraping ash, those wire pipe cleaners used to plumb 
the wooden stem that we twisted into little men, 
the way he tapped the bowl against the red brick hearth. 

And I remember how I could hardly speak and hid 
my heart behind those weak stuttered syllables, as in the gloaming 
of that smoke-filled gloom, I longed to become what I could never be, 
a light between despair and luminosity: his chosen girl-
and how the yearning only made the room feel darker.


Four warm figs stuffed 
with bacon and blue cheese
sit in the middle of a square white 
plate, while you, dapper at ninety

in your Saville Row grey, 
flirt with the Polish waitress.
You still have an eye 
for a pretty girl. Then they come:
the questions as to why I'm not 
close to my sister or have a 'nice' man
and I'm rendered, as you insist 
on coffee, mute, unable to speak

of the wedge you drove between 
your two daughters, the compliant

and the 'difficult', of how
I could never be the golden girl
of your imagining. You who lacerated 
me with a tongue laced
with your own fear of failure. 

And I wonder if, now, I should
tell you how I was hardly able to live, 
yet know you could not bear

what such telling called up in you.
Then you climb, unsteadily,

into the taxi, take my hand in yours 
and tell me you love me;

your rheumy eyes filling 
with tears, your face crumpling
like a child's at an unanswered 
question, so I am crushed
by the weight of your regret, 
as the chill wind blows along

the Embankment corrugating 
the ash-grey water

and I am left cradling your words
in my freezing hands.


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