You stand in the reeds that tickle your cheeks. Everything is taller than you,
the grass, the fence, the trees, the bush, the wall. There is gold everywhere.
Buzzing things glint as they flit and zuzz and you move your head to their
dance. You stare up as the clouds drift. When you first notice them falling
off the edge of the sky you are filled with a wonder so deep you understand
God and when you stare at the sun little, white tadpoles dart on the bright
green light inside your eyelids.
You are free. You and the air are one speeding over the vault,
your fear, a tight hub in your throat, the still point, as you turn like a wheel.
When you land well, arms up in a ‘V,’ happy heat spokes out of your chest;
the rays of the gymnast-queen, you are at least one whole inch taller.
You spend lunchtime recess upside down doing handstands.
For months there is nothing else. Then Alisdair Reynolds says,
“You’ve got tits!” And next time going over the vault the PE teacher says,
“Well, well young lady you aregrowing up!” Your big wheels stop.
You curl up like a woodlouse. She buys you your first bra, takes you to see
Jesus Christ Superstar. He buys you a gold ring with a sapphire in it.
It’s too important to wear, so it stays in its serious box for years.
Much sooner than your friends you bleed, it makes you quiet.
The world smells different. You dance to ‘I Will Survive’ until the spins
cancel you out. They clap in a circle around you until it’s their turn to go in
the middle. You want to rub bits of yourself out with the eraser on the end
of your pencil. You pierce your ears instead. You write poetry about
snakes. You start to love French.
You want to leave but can’t. The others have untangled themselves, but
your ravels are like spaghetti and stickier to loosen. Your friends have been
bought a duvet cover from Habitat, potted plants, pots and pans.
You move but only half way out to a flat around the corner.
You go, but have not gone. You are neither here nor there. You join in.
You stay apart. And it is not you that in winter faints after a very hot bath
in the coldest house in South London. You act, you read, you write.
He is tall. He belongs to another. He wakes your heart, where inside now a
bird drums her wings on your breastbone. It is Easter. You are crucified
with longing. You are a virgin. An, old one. You go back with more books
and a new hat. He talks to you and you find out that he is now free. You are
paralysed. He isn’t and walks 13 miles back to his digs in Deptford into the
early-morning darkness after talking to you until 3am in your parents’
downstairs kitchen. You held hands. You fear you will not match up. A
confident beauty is already scoping him out, his previous lovers were all
long-thighed goddesses with glabrous skin. You hold hands. You decide.
You take a bloody risk. There is no poetry it is matter of fact. If it’s
like that again he may have second thoughts. It isn’t. He doesn’t. But your
father can no-longer look you in the eye.