Poetry Corner


”Strange fruit’ by Tom Owen
On the 80s council estate
hanging out with me mates,
hopscotch, bulldog, keeping scores
in white-dog-poo, outlining 'territory'
with Scott, me brother and 'poor Barry'
who died soon after.
The details are a kinder blur -
'Water on the brain' me mam said
'just drifted off in his bed.'
Carried him out late one night,
into eternal midsummer light.
Couldn't sleep after that, I understand
dad had to come up to hold me hand.

A long, lazy day I fell off my old, new bike
I chanced upon Angharradh, like,
an otherworldly girl to meet,
staying with her Nan in the next street
The Big Houses. Detached.
She wore clothes that matched.
I lifted up my grit-grained palms, hurt,
and face tracked with tear-stained dirt.
My wounds were germolined,
as she soothed wounded pride,
then bid me follow her home through
a narrow passage where nothing grew,
where she proffered me a foreign fruit,
this strange, but tempting loot,
Eaten with a shiny pin.
Not Fray Bentos from the tin
Real nosh,
like eating fish n chips with forks - proper posh.

The strange, full-blooded reddish hue
Looked wizened, overripe?
To suburbia from brighter lands
into my eager hands -
for Elizabeth David did decree
that we eat herbs for our tea.
Well Ragu -
Brings out the Italian in you.
A Pommie Granite? I repeated,
Not quite Angharradh's gentle lilt,
Splitting open swollen red pools
sweetly studded with tiny jewels,
I stuck my tongue in to lick -
You need to use the pin to prick.
She reached to touch,
I wanted her to like me so much,
stabbing seeds, ignoring the rough,
Crunching, bursting, I couldn't get enough.
I leaned over to kiss her soft skin,
and she simply stuck her tongue in.
An exquisite moment.
Delicious, ripe.

But I pulled away.
It was time to return.

I ran off, yem,
Like a scaredy bairn,
To where dad was mowing
and softly singing
yes man, yes man, three bags full of grass
Where you been lass?
You ate what? From a stranger?
Such was the perceived danger.
Ashamed, I never did explain,
but I always remembered her name,
even called for her next holiday,
but she never came back to play.
And filled with seeds of longing
for another place, belonging,
something grew within -
I wanted so much more than a Cox's Orange Pippin.

Suzanne Fairless-Aitken

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