1. The Art Dream

2. Bennet

3. Poor Janet Curses her Unborn Child



Art, international and clean,
Possesses her. In a UNESCO corridor
From long high walls the abstract
Intentions threaten; folkweave
Is sullen about her neck. Commands
Are bullying down as
Fierce as truths. She's
Dwarfed and she panics
To wake and to Bennet, upright, smoking, smiling.


He smiles on and does not need to say:
        I saw you so stared across
        You turned away
        I followed and spoke softly
        You were edgy, nasty, and then I knew
        My Janet that in your dreaming
        You were meat skewered upon my table.

He draws on his cigarette and chooses not to say:
        Because your words are not light
        Forever fugitive upon the river
        Because I get headaches
        Because you get headaches
        Because it's become routine
        Because you say and say you need me
        Because variety is worth a try
        But never hope for change
        Because I want to
        I'm going and shan't come back.


They say you shouldn't feel guilt, so I won't
Touch you, but scream till they take you away and
Then it'll be all right. You've messed me,
So here's what you'll get:

Long corridors to call home that a fierce good
Thinker'll change to pastel and won't change; cuddles
From giving sisters who (you can't know)
Will leave soon to be married or
Maybe promoted. In a place like that
You need tricks, baby. It all gets easy
With the young cuckoo's game, the
Supernormal gape to set them moving...
You'll develop qualities -
Like soon a talent for pushing testy housemothers
Further from love.
You'll sprout by the glimmer of beaming liberals.
Vicars'll tell you how Christ cares
For homeless drug addicts
Till you leave to become one.
In smutty talk you shall swell among all
Your swaggering friends who bully by day and sob,
Sob in the night.
You shall never be possessed by an image of true intransigence,
A great refusal of role assigned; You'll grow
Thinking rebellion is smugly scrawling on bus-shelters
Or giving some teacher an invitation
To let fly with his indolent habit of cursing.
Oh baby I can see it
When the predictable dramas of adolescence
Erupt in you like acne.
I see your school performance match
Precisely the dismal expectations dictated
By all the sociology textbooks.

I presume you're male, though I don't care.
Your prick'll be all you have; what
Crimes'll make it great?
From petty theft to head-bashing
I see you go witlessly. Let me picture you
Oh in an experimental detention centre
Praised in the Guardian. I see you flanked by
Sincere therapists who smile like friends.

Then I lose interest. Maturity
With its sad achievement
Of boredom and failure I take as read.

I don't want to see you.
I don't want to see...


Feeling her skin with benevolent satisfaction, she
Eyes her dependable Derek and knows
How she's been through it; her mind does a leap towards scorn.
She's seen thick oily depths, felt nothing's pressure,
Spat once at a social worker, a small triumph
That burst like a yellow boil, and hurt.
His broad back has moles. She smiles but does not say
His smile is innocently stupid.
Beyond all this furniture,
Beyond the confining moment,
She sees her knowledge, a solid thing
That tacks and echoes, receding before yet
There forever, a token of
Bitter complicity, and of that nasty
Personal ridge from which laughing
She saw with elation of height and hate
Below her the many, unelectric.
Well, if that ridge now shadows her, still
She explored it once, has tasted
Darkest of victories, the terrible
Triumph of all subjective.

A queen, if secretly, she strokes his back.
He turns, suspiciously, sees on her face
That smile of Bennet's.

Patsy Barnor

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