Grown Up

Her mouth was filled with clinker,
tongue bashed blue. Inside each tooth
there was a nugget of blood.
Her hands lolled on her hips like holsters.

In the stalls, gulping a gone-off
gobbet of raspberry ripple, he fixed
his fat eyes on her. He held his doffed cap
between two nailed knees.

Witch in a breeze of powdery flame.
When she came down his aisle, berserk,
his lips were fringed with spittle
and his smile yanked itself open, choking.

Mother was in fur, father a blur
of ample shadow. They lifted him up
like an offering, like a prize piglet
they were itching to be shot of.

There was a thick gloop of light
which she straddled. She took him like strewth,
and settled his feet on the stage,
where they wobbled under his ankles.

Her hair was stiff. It smelt of paint,
of bandage, of angry words,
of the beaks of birds he’d tweaked
in the back of the taxidermist’s.

Before him, the shapeless faces
were as tough as toffee, and hands bristled
with quick-draw applause. He howled.
She turned him into a turtle,

a mouse, a sweeper of chimneys,
a lamprey, a polly-pop, a cheese,
a monocle through which he glimpsed
himself, years further ahead, as a man.

From the book Looks Familiar