Jen If

A Trip up the Kerb

One brittle, winter day,
When cold has drained all scent out of the air,
And overnight sewn it in a sparkling wrap,
Discarded over everything,
To be brushed-off by any careless shoulder,
Written in by mischievous fingers,
Or melted by the smallest footprints,
A woman trips.

For a lifetime - 
Or less than a second -
She’s frozen in crystal light,
Caught breath and blood-bitten lips,
Fingers outstretched in a lofty, balletic gesture,
Yet futile,
A tendril of hair flattened across her face,
Like a wriggling mono-brow,
Handbag exposing,
A full-colour peepshow of her
Bruised purse, hair-clogged brush,
A work I.D. and sanitary towel,
On her face a preoccupied expression,
And o-pout mouth, exclaiming,
In a tone more suited to a 1940’s cocktail party,
As she folds,
Neck first, head back,
Shoulders crowding ears and 
Right knee dangerously close to her white, ridged throat,
Towards the pavement.

She recovers it.
Feet in-turned,
The heel of one patent shoe creaking,
Popping a stitch,
Two stitches,
Yet holding firm.
She’s spilled some coins and a thrush pessary,
But doesn’t pick them out of the wet gutter,
Smiles at sniggering onlookers,
Neatly reigns in her unruly body,
And cruises on her way,

She’s lived her life like this,
At speeds beyond her control,
Never dwelling on that lost,
Always on the brink of catastrophe,
A startling combination of 
Comic and tragic.

I’ll Never

Dance with my father at my sons’ wedding,
Holding the loose creases of his jacket,

My arm preventing his fall,
While we shuffle, slide back, side-step,

His spit-n-polish shoes,
Of early mornings and the mud brush,

Lined up on the Sunday paper,
Toe-to-shiny-toe with mine.

Use his handkerchief to wave away the car with,
And wipe away my tears with,

The age-soft fabric and blood-maroon D,
My Mother embroidered for him there.

Feel his prickly cheek on mine,
His stale shirt scent of cigars and sweat,

Feel the shiver and know, with wonder,
That ice feeling,

Bow-in-hair-ribbon, look, I’m young feeling,
Please leave me in the car feeling,
I don’t remember yesterday feeling,

As though, I lost more than he took,
As though the dance and the handkerchief,
And his shiny, shiny shoes,

Are what mattered.


On shelves,
Full of yellowed,
Edges curled like petals,
Or permanently folded down,
Thumbprints and burn marks,
Smudged stamps,
Crossed-out names.

Move slowly,
Speak softly.

Breathe carefully the smells,
Old Marlboroughs and Gitanes,
Woodsmoke, diesel,
Profligate bacteria,
The shifting scent of bruised.

Spines pinned,
Pages lost -
Can sometimes be found,
Comments read,
Never erased.

Hold them.
They’ve lived the stories they tell.

Flights, Issue Eight, March 2023