Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Rules of Engagement


he says as he opens the door, and I’m glad he makes the first move because I’ve never been one for leading. I keep in step and hit back with a


and he returns with a

How Are You?

and I tell him I am happy, positively happy, and now I’m in the hallway of his house with its cream carpet and phone and mirror and I give a smile to show him how lovely I think it is and then I say

How Are You?

and he tells me he is fine, absolutely fine, and we’re both mighty pleased at this because we’ve passed the first stage without a hitch. He leads me into the kitchen, and it has tiles and a table and nibbles, a touch of class, with a bowl of crisps and a choice of dips, and I keep smiling and then realise we’ve been standing there for a full minute in silence and I’ve forgotten whose turn it is but he saves the day by saying

What Have You Been Up To Recently?

and I tell him what a brilliant question that is, brilliant, and then I say not much. He smiles back at me but I can tell he’s a bit disappointed with that, so I add

And You?

and now he’s really smiling and he tells me what a brilliant question that is, brilliant, and then he says same old same old. I chuckle and he nods and I notice he’s waiting for me to speak, so I have a think and then ask him

Who Are You?

but it seems that’s the wrong thing to say, and he shakes his head and tells me I shouldn’t need to ask that sort of question because I’ve known him for six years, and he’s right about that, definitely right, no doubt about it, and I can see he’s panicking now because we’ve gone out of time, and he says with haste

What Are You Doing Now?

and although I think that’s rather obvious I answer anyway and say I am at your house because you have invited me over and I am holding a bottle of wine for you, and I am, it is in my right hand, and I raise it by the neck and give it to him. That puts us back in rhythm and he takes it with a grin and says of course, fantastic, and he pours out the wine and hands me a glass, and I swill and smell and sip and swallow and go mmm, and he goes mmm as well, and picks up the bottle and reads the label at a tilt. Chateauneuf-du-Pape he says, and it isn’t a question but I say yes, and he says 2001, and I say a good year, and he looks up and we both can’t believe we’ve actually just had a conversation about wine. Then I have a moment of inspiration and ask him

Do You Have Any Plans For The Future?

I can tell he’s impressed because he puts the bottle and glass down, he needs two hands for this, and he opens his palms and says well, and then a small plastic model of a dog wearing a top hat distracts me and I don’t listen to what he says, and when I turn back he’s still talking and about three hours have passed. So, he says, after that I imagine I will probably just die, and I reply everyone has to have plans, and I say it because it’s a universal truth and he nods at this, and then I down the rest of my wine and say I am going to leave now, it has been a lovely evening, and he says

Thank You For Coming

which is ever so polite and I thank him for that, and I take the bottle of wine because it actually tastes quite nice and I want it back. We walk to the door and I’m excited because I know we’re coming to the last stage, and I step outside and turn around, and he says


leaving me with the prestige which is very generous of him, and I clear my throat because this has to be a good one, and I reply, with much gusto,


Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Face of my Manchester Girl

I cup her face in my hands
And what have I got?
The skin at her eyes is scrunched
And side-teeth show through red lipped kinks

She’s looking at me
And her eyes are happy to be by my fingers,
But where have these hands been?
Towelling doglegs, ripping caps from pens
And scraping away paint from tough bristled brushes;
They’ve even broken things.

I squash her cheeks with my hands;
My strong hard, thick and hard
Fingers like bolts strapped against wire,
The sun in Manchester has lifted my spirits
And my hands are warm, hard and dry.

‘You’re supple and soft – with these creams on your skin,’
The smile on her eyes falls and those irises sharpen
Her pupils, a set of two sharp pin-blacks
Watch me now, hunting
I lick her cheek and taste ground powders, old soap,
Those light, bitter chemicals.
The explanation, she assures me, is to do with the sun
‘If it rains so much here, I need cream –
I wear the cream like you wear a mac.’

The weather changes endlessly and it always rubs her skin.

I hold her face in my hands,
These hands have broken things