Two Poems

Selima Hill

Not all the women of England

At the top of the bank
a black airman
is doing sit-ups
in the tenderest
of early-morning sun.
I want to squash him flat.
He’s like my Uncle Pat’s
gold cigarette-case
that flies open
when you touch it.

You cruise along the fence
with your elbow
on the rolled-down window-edge.
Everything you come near
falls to bits.

The cattery sells bedding plants
and runner beans.
Someone has been up here
to mow a tiny lawn,
and hang a sign above it,
opposite the fence I mentioned
and the bank, before the airman came.

The way the green brim
of your Chinese sun-hat’s
been turned up –
it’s like the tail
on a bulldog’s bum.
Help me to take no notice,
holy flowers!

The passenger, the passenger,
I don’t want to be the passenger.
Please can we stop at the Trout Lakes.

You came into my bedroom
carrying a duck,
and we lived together happily
for five years.
She was so tame
they wrote about her
in the Whitby Gazette.
And now you’re driving a saloon
I’ve come to hate
round and round the camp
like a bum.
I think I’m going to say
I want to leave you.
May I be smothered
in sweet pollen,
flowers of the morning,
morning flowers.
I want to leave you.

The hearts on the shutters
make the houses look like
cuckoo clocks, or little chalets –
can you hear the cowbells tinkle? –
where Mother Bear and Father Bear
eat fondue. They overlook
the fence and the bank.

The airman walks away
to living-quarters
we can’t see
like a zoo animal.
He polishes his boots.
He’s far from home.
Deep in trout lakes on the other side
trouts’ dreams of flies
come true ...

Not all the women of England
are boiling kettles
by the tall gates
but I love them all.
They shelter in the oaks
on the soft verges
where the airman lights up
his king-size cigarette.

The Holiday

My twin sister Mary
didn’t even look up
when the Fluchthorn could be seen
right outside the window.
By the time we reached the chalet,
War and Peace was finished,
and then she complained
of having nothing to do.

She sat under her duvet
like a pope,
asking for ‘a good novel’,
and ignoring the Sunne-Blüme Tee
we offered her instead.
My mother got more and more gloomy,
and gave up her plan of yodelling
across the Inn at midnight.

My poor mother – she was trying
to get over her affair with H.
Novels made her feel worse.
Her favourite book was
London’s Countryside
By Green-Line Bus and, recently,
that great mountaineering classic,
Pilgrimage to Nanga Parbat.

She liked the way the climber
talks about the Clear Voice
that he hears; and when he sits,
high above a nullah,
eating the last of his sausage,
he feels the mountain
watching every mouthful, like a dog.
My mother could just imagine it.