Three Poems

Fiona Pitt-Kethley

AIDS

Condoms can never save the world from germs –
machines run out of them and chemists close;
a friend blames two abortions on the things;
some funny little foreign ones don’t fit;
besides, they’re not much use for oral sex.

Evangelists rejoice God’s got the gays.
(He’s let off lesbians though – and wankers too –
of course, we all know they go blind.)

A dinner-party back I heard it all.
‘It came from Haiti where men go with pigs.’
‘The CIA invented it in labs
to kill the Reds. There was an accident ... ’
‘The Government should shoot the lot of them.’
‘It’s haemophiliacs that I’m sorry for ... ’
Then some Scots poet did his little piece –
four lines about an AIDS-infected fart.
He’d written it on the way down from Arbroath –
specially for the Hastings Festival,
with one (in grunts) about a spastic boy.

We’re all immune (or not) to certain things.
Half of the class gets measles, half does not.
We’re all sentenced to death. There’s no reprieve.
Whom the Gods love die early? Some from AIDS.

Whitelaw’s Commission says we ‘must be made
to think monogamy’s the correct way.’
Mr and Mrs Right have married bliss
(and one point seven kids). The rest of us
must chop and change.

Safe sex? There’s no such thing.

Just Good Friends

I’m the ‘just friendship’ one –
the other Other Woman in his life
I get to hear about the other two.

He says his wife’s too old at 45
for sex. He has a girl of 24 for that.
He calls her ‘brainless’ – she forgets the Pill.
He jokes about leading her on to try
odd kinks that make her look ridiculous.

I’m told he’s never mixed friendship and sex.
His wife like me’s a friend. They haven’t had
much sex and none of it was any good.
She doesn’t clean the place or cook for him,
or put a penny into paying bills.
‘I run a one-man charity,’ he says.
She doesn’t care a fuck about his work.
She’s scratched his face, given him various knocks,
torn a review-copy to little bits,
plays rather funny little jokes on him –
like lying round pretending to be dead.
Last time he told me problems on the phone
I heard her yelping like a terrier.
‘She’s frigid,’ he says.

The roofing bloke he paid to stay with her
and do the roof while he was off with Mum
was just ‘a friend’. The roof still leaks.
The man with a tattoo across his face
who turned up in their bedroom once, was just
‘a friend’. She goes to several private views a night,
tells him she’s off to use a word-processor
(belonging to a friend) at 1 a.m.

He thinks that I should give up ‘using men’,
in fact, give them all up, just be his friend.
He talked of Brief Encounter in the pub.
I’m his ‘white kitten’ too. We’re just good friends.
I’m welcome in his house to stay the night.
(I’ll take a rain-check on that though – for fear
of meeting tattooed men.)

What do I hang on for? The ‘Love’ he puts
upon the letters that he sometimes writes?
The ‘Love and admiration’ on his books?
The sighing pauses on the telephone?
His hand upon my cheek, his lips on mine?
Blue eyes? He’s quite a handsome shit.

Mills and Boon

The Midlands Arts Centre in Birmingham
hosted a lecture for the Festival,
on Mills and Boon.

An editress and author gave a talk –
like two American evangelists.
We Moonies sat there drinking it all in.
Too many Regency, too few Renaissance men –
they’re slightly short of costume romance plots.
These days the heroines are allowed careers;
Doctor and Nurse can now be Doc plus Doc.
We were advised to study lots of books
before we sent in our first manuscript.
(Aha, I thought, you’ve got the innocents –
housewives who want a gentle mental-wank,
so now you’re going round the festivals
to rope in more pretentious literary shites.)
They’d have us all reading and writing the stuff.

Their table had three piles beside the jugs.
One hand-out told us how to type our book –
some useful tips – like numbering from 1.
Another said what contents were allowed.
The third was just a little order form
for the cassette.

Then came the question-time – a welcome break.
A fattish person in the top back left
wanted to know why they’d rejected hers
when she had followed every single rule
and women’s magazines just loved her stuff.
Others showed much willingness to set to work,
queried the pay. (They didn’t get to know.)
The local author, though, dropped subtle hints –
she had a word-processor and microwave
and now was ‘one up in the housing chain’.
Some asked what sort of girl ... what sort of man ...
All sounded Saved as Billy Graham’s flock.
I meant to be a devil’s advocate
and said I didn’t like their brutal males.
The author told me she’d had ‘thirty-seven
affairs’ with them – the people in her books.
An addict zombie murmured fervently,
‘My neighbour lent me a whole pile of them –
I was in plaster to the hip – I thought
the heroes were all lovely men.’
I was outnumbered evidently.
The editress, intent on winning my soul –
she saw me as an author for her lot –
took it I didn’t like this modern sex,
and told me a nice old scenario
about a widower with two small kids
who slept rooms from his bride on The First Night.
I had to say ‘Perhaps he was impotent
and doped her cocoa just to cover up.’
She didn’t like my theory all that much.

We should be careful what we fantasise –
it might, it really might come true at last.
I’ve tried to see myself within those books.
‘Mills and Boon heroines don’t sleep around!’
we’d heard. ‘They’re 17 to 28.’
None of that audience even qualified.

I’m more the hero type, I’d have to say –
tall, dark and handsome, powerful (if not rich).
I should get some young, trembling, virgin bloke,
crush him against a wall in a hotel
(in some exotic spot) and bruise his lips.
Then, chapters on, after an argument,
I’d dominate him in the lift, get one
strong hand inside his silken shirt and tear
the buttons off – no hassle, he can sew.
I’d feel his nipples harden at my touch.
The other hand would grasp his slender nape.
I’d press against him with my powerful frame.
His mouth would open slowly under mine.
(He’d feel exquisite torture all the while.)
In the last chapter when things are resolved,
I’d scoop him up and chuck him on the bed.
(My art-school days and frequent DIY
have made me quite exceptionally strong.)
He’d smell the perfume of a thousand flowers –
he’d know I’m single, know that I’m his boss.
As I bore down, I’d hear his ‘Show me how ... ’
But no, I’ve got it wrong it’s ‘We must wait!’
‘Show me how’ ’s only for The Wedding Night.
The virgin bloke’s a mercenary bitch.