Now, now is the perfect time of my life’


O to be seventeen again
when all my autumn Saturdays
cast this edifice of rain;
when we loped between the bar and baize
of some half-empty basement lounge;
later striking out with mates   
beyond the dark parades of town:
past flats, grand houses, to new estates,
in search of vinyl’s carried bass.
Most nights we’d make the party list
by hailing nigh-on friendly faces:
school peers, sports buddies, brothers, sisters,
then worked a corner, settled in,
split our kitchen-pilfered tins.

One time I met this girl who said
‘So you’re a serious poet,
maybe…’ – though she hadn’t read
a jot, a breath of what I wrote –
‘...your work befits that scold of Plath’s,
you know: these poems do not live,
all drifting feet and dead-eyed craft,
they sit so nicely in pickling fluid!’
The party boomed.  Kat showed her wrists,
the frailest, thinnest chat-up lines
I’d been presented with.  We kissed
among the trash and smears of wine;
that heady scent of sweet perfume.
My coat was hers: I walked her home.

Plath steered her diary entries through
‘the rapture of being seventeen’.
Beyond the art above the bureau,
the chair and desk, the quiet trees…
‘Always I want to be an observer.’
Yet here are thoughts she needs to say:
‘I am afraid of getting older…
spare me from cooking three meals a day’.
I fixed a time to meet with Kat
but for one or untold reasons
watched my cloudy pint go flat.
We met the one time, post-exams,
an all-night bash; she wondered if
I still composed that schoolboy stuff.

Kat, I hope you’re understood,
grown calm with blond-haired sons and daughters;
stashed about your townhouse study,
a dust-filmed, bleached-out Crossing the Water.
My lad-of-letters front, my lack
of gab or nous, my crap attempts
at holding all that spilt beer back,
I view now through the thickest lens.
A party shakes a neighbour’s house
but even as I lie awake   
and listen through the whoops and shouts
above a rough, insistent bass,
what jags and stirs the early hours –
my babies floating in their jars.

_______________________

Chris Jones

 

Chris Jones’ first full-length collection was The Safe House (2007). In 2011 his work was shortlisted for the Forward Best Single Poem Prize. He has just published his latest collection Jigs and Reels with Shoestring Press.