That Was The Downstairs
The Toilet, spiteful and ice-boxy,
disapproved of warm seats.
It preferred smelly, germicide paper
that crinkled and slid off bottoms.
Lounge had crushed-velvet occasions
on cocktail sticks, dusty sofas
for headstands, radio programmes
in real foreign and books for escaping.
Backroom, snug with mottled shins,
ponged of coal fire. Toys slept in a cupboard.
I stood on a chair, Listened with Mother,
ear pressed to a wireless on the bureau.
Kitchen had a twin-tub, a Kenwood Chef
with bowls of licky cake-mix
an angry housewifemummy
who made chicken soup, with garlic.
Bathroom was a bastard, an old geyser,
that swore in your face.
An adapted scullery that stank
of dandruff-shampoo and vinegar.
Front bedroom had a grandma and trolley
full of pills. She spoke foreign English
and ate olives for breakfast. Each morning
the house shook with her sneezes.
Back-bedroom cried when big sister left home.
Branches smacked its windows. Little sister,
in bed with measles, made plasticine Vikings,
kept watch for bogey men behind cupboards.
This poem is from Rachael’s new pamphlet, Girl Golem, published by 4Word.org. Rachael’s parents were toddler migrants from Ukrainian Russia, arriving, with their parents, in 1912 & 1914. Heritage and sense of being other, are her main themes. Rachael is a familiar figure on the poetry circuit. Her collection, Singing at the Bone Tree, is published by Indigo Dreams. Her work appears in anthologies & journals including: Tears in the Fence, Prole, The Rialto, Under the Radar, The Interpreters House, Obsessed with Pipework, Lighthouse. She will be reading at various events over the next few months.