Two pound coin, Wire tap & Ode to a night bus
by Alice Malin
[ poetry - august 12 ]
Two pound coin
You were the one who said you couldn't take it
first. My heart dropped like an old tennis ball:
it didn't bounce. I howled, made a racket.
Your mother smiled on the other side of the wall.
No. I beat you to it. I said I couldn't take it any more.
You cried. I had never believed you could, before.
It was as if you'd fallen out of a myth: weird
as a unicorn in chinos. I almost loved those tears.
Wait. I remember I dealt it you over cappuccinos;
I heard you on the phone: Baby, I think she knows...
Yes - you threw my phone against the wall;
No: I sent you a novella, in recriminating scrawl.
You swore you'd never do it again;
I told you I'd fallen in love with other men. No no no.
I can't remember if any of it's true, but
what I do remember more vividly than you
is emerging onto the street, bag stuffed
with the unequal product of our hasty division.
The sun was blinding (I walked sloughing
mementos into public bins); the spring was lissom.
I had no cash for the bus; black bags splitting,
I howled into someone's azaleas. Then a man
passed me. The sun behind his back was well-fitting.
What's up, darlin'? He stuck his hand
into his pocket. Brought out a two-pound coin. Enough
for the bus, he said. The sun shone on the coin
in my hand. I couldn't see where sky and city joined.
The memory of his kindness still takes me by the scruff.
No, fuck you, motherfucker! I'm 'on ace ya.
My mother freezes over olives and foccaccia.
Brother, remove yo hairy punk ass!
Dad's eyes ask reproachful questions of his sea bass.
Upstairs, Maths, St Marg's, dreams of Narcotics, Baltimore.
...The cat slips like a secret between floors...
From six thirty sharp, The Wire leaks through plaster
While the evening slides forward on indigent castors.
Year 9 workbooks marked, my neighbour's other life boots up
It greets him in surround sound: yo. Whassup.
We meet sometimes in the hall: a small man in slacks
Apologetic, blinking, and I wonder perhaps
In the staffroom - unacceptable behaviour, I'll warn her -
Whether part of his mind is still on the corner,
If with fuck-you face he lines up break-time pink wafers
Like .45s on a china plate. Like he had everything to play for.
Ode to a night bus
Bought her a drink, said I was a surgeon.
When she smiled, her teeth shone blue.
In the gents', pissed under a ten foot sturgeon:
Winked at me - I swear that's true.
Her deepsea mouth gleaming aquamarine,
She tells me she wants vodka,
No ice. Mate, card's working, what do you mean?
What, now you think you're God, huh?
- You're not a member. I'll ask you to leave.
ATM's fucked. I throw up
on the pavement, wipe my mouth on my sleeve.
Could be anywhere. I'm stuck.
But then the nonchalant city reaches
Into a side street, pulls out
A casual miracle, teaching
The night to be more devout.
The N133, rain-buffed, stops outside
A members' club in South Ken.
The scratched automatic doors open wide
To let the drunk people in.