Oct/Nov 2008 Poetry

Two Merthyr Poems

by Vanessa Gebbie

Ice Cream

To buy an ice, my aunt and I
made our way up Gwilym Terrace then Plymouth Street,
to a white café where a Seven-Up sign hung by a nail
and cooling lorries ticked in the car park.

We left Nan alone in her kitchen, hot and old
Bring me an ice, there's a lovely
hair flying from its pins, her kissed face smelling of Pears,
ankle boots laced under a patched black skirt.

On their wedding day, my grandfather's hands spanned her waist.
He made their first married breakfast and carried it up,
his feet bare on the stairs,
a bracelet hidden under the bread.

We chose ice creams from the deep freeze,
asked for wafers, lemonade,
sat at a hot window seat where
I watched my ice cream melt in its metal bowl.

Nan kept that bracelet in a tin in the pantry.
Her man isn't framed on the front room wall.
She visited no graves.
He is in my head, she said.

By the time we got back Nan was asleep in her chair,
one hand holding the other on her lap, gentle,
and on her thumb-skin the imprint of her journey
to this point.

Who would tell her when she woke, that we hadn't brought her an ice
from the café at the end of Plymouth Street
because it was too hot
and from there to here was just too much?


On the Coal Tip

At the end of the street, beyond Aunt Lil's,
wild ponies came to eat the grass.

Black that soil was. Black as the death
of Mr. Ellis Number Six. The prefab kids
stalked the ponies downwind like Indians
with lassos copied from Bronco Lane.

Mangy things, the ponies, hips jutting like
under the skin they had coat hangers,
ears flat and teeth ready to nip.

But oh, one pony was beautiful, see,
her coat a grey day before sun-up,
her sides sleek and bulging with life,
although we didn't know that. Not at all.

And we chased her with the prefab boys,
hooting and screeching over the grass,
cowboys, Indians, and stumbling hooves
until she lay panting, flanks heaving.

Her eyes shot blood and steam rose
from nostrils that flared dark tunnels,
while the prefab boys gathered like crows.


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