‘Those Days’ – a poem by Gary Allen

    Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

 
 

    Those days

 

There was always a simpleton as far back as I can remember
her shit-covered hand through the broken glass
of a small window high in the gable wall
above the hoarding for Woodbine cigarettes
as though she were asking for one, or catching rain
as though she were begging for help

on the way home from school
I thought she was part of the advertisement
until one day she became a small white cloud
in a pale blue sky for British Airways –

in those days we all wanted to fly away
in those days our fathers had wild-bearded biblical names
that set them apart like stars in constellations.

My first girlfriend had tiny criss-crossed scars
on her forehead from when her alcoholic father
slammed her head again and again against the mantelpiece
blaming unemployment and the Orange state
my own father wouldn’t let me bring her into the house
saying no son of his would marry a pape

though we were only sixteen and sniffing glue
for model airplanes in the dun-covered
iron pen runs of the cattle market
where punishment beatings were reserved
as bolt guns for stunning non-religious cows –

I fought a war for freedom, my father cried
though he wasn’t any better off than those who stayed behind:

the old woman died and the window became a window again
and I never found out what her madness was
and though she hadn’t a name I called her Marie
after my girlfriend who broke free
by pushing a screwdriver into her father’s neck.

 
 

Gary Allen

About Gary Allen

Gary Allen has published eighteen books of poetry. A new collection, 'The Bonfire', will be published later this year by Greenwich Exchang. He was highly commended in the Forward Prize 2019 abd his poems have been published widely in international literary magazines, including The Australian Book Review, London Magazine, The New Statesman, The Poetry Review, Quadrant, and The Threepenny Review.