In Answer To His Question


she pulls at the loose thread,
dries the pots on the draining board
hoovers the stray seed under the cage,
wipes the dusty blinds then raises them.
“I’m happy,” she tells him.


she sharpens her cheekbones,
creates light
diagonal from side of her nose
up to outer corner of her eye.
Light shade of concealer along the upper edges.
Matte bronzing powder under the bones
increases their height
for him.
“What do you think?”
she asks.


she takes a hair out of his eye,
brushes dandruff from his collar,
loosens his tie, undoes top button
and second button of his shirt,
tidies the creases in his jacket,
pats dust off his shoulders,
and says “You look dapper, now”,
as her fingers tuck her hair behind
her perfumed ear.


she can still sense musk
she put on her neck earlier.
“I’ve got something in my eye.
Can you see it? You’ll have to
move closer.”
her lace bra strap somehow comes loose.
“This shoe’s killing me. I’ve been too long in the saddle.
Not invading your space, love.
But can I use your shoulder while I straighten it out. “


Blackbird jams to himself
on the non smoking chimney pot;
bright day emerges dazed.
Officers still haven’t found her body.
Bluebells appear for the first time
along the railway embankment.
In a display window the bread is burnt;
she lets him touch her breast.
His hand stays there.


The rains do not stop.
A ladder in her stockings
has rungs; multiplying
when she crosses her legs.
His vape is losing flavour.
The little girl laughs as she leaps
the lines in the pavement.
He’s used 80% of power
on his mobile.
An ant traverses breaks
in the concrete. The questioner
ogles the line of the waitresses legs
not hers:
“Stop looking at her legs. You pervert.”


she crosses her legs
towards him;
the river in spate.
Astro-turf on the graves
needs a short back and sides.
she crosses her legs
away from him.
Dust piles in forgotten corners,
babies lose their comfort blankets;
petals fall from the table vase.


She separates items on her plate. Peas
from carrots, meat
from mash. Hot
from cold.
“How young we were when you asked me.”
She folds her paper napkin into a crane
that nods.
She fold his into a T shirt.
“You’ve got to look in the right place.”


The waitress in a tiny black dress
has brought their food.
His hands are so soft and gentle
as he picks up the cold knife and fork,
she can only imagine the worst of it.
And decades ago:
A little girl in a gingham dress
rushes after a Yorkshire Terrier
that’d strayed on the railway line.
A little boy reaches over the shining
pool full of his grandad’s new
golden koi carp.
There were screams then, too.
“This mash is nice.” she says.


her Wetwipe removes the gravy stain on his trousers,
“You’d never make a good criminal.” she says.
At the other meal stains and crumbs are intentional.
Temptation is the first course.
Lure the innocent full spoon
with a promise, or an adventure,
into the quiver of a mouth .
The Act, the main.
Unexpected threat.
Taste the screams.
Savour the dessert.
Admire the sweet iced silence
and/or the blood.
Coroners, always so kind: “Death by Misadventure”
“Can’t take you anywhere. You’re worse
than a kid.” she says.


Her late son and daughter’s tender portraits
in the rare bloody meat on his plate,
arranged, as when a child makes faces with food.
His knife and fork separate threads
of their sinew and bone:
One bloated as if drowned,
the other in pieces, as if smashed
by a speeding train.
Life defined by what is missing.
And then she sees
her own face there.
“Don’t play with your food. Eat it properly.” she scolds.
He makes her face in the meat smile.


She tuts when he slaps his chops
and pulls at the strands of young life
caught between his incisors
and molars with his silvered tongue,
slurps bright cold beer from his pint glass,
mashes peas into mash, carrots
into Yorkshire pudding, oblivious
to what goes where, and with what.
“All meets up in the same place, love”,
she comments and laughs
and sees their graves
all in a row like teeth.


He always sups 11 pints of beer,
then stops: Has to reach
a certain level, to be happy.
Their car is left at the pub.
She makes sure he gets home safely.
When they can’t afford a taxi,
she oversees his wandering
into; the road of fast cars,
other people’s gardens to piss,
or pokes him with her finger
to rouse his slumber,
and yanks a bush over himself
as if it were a bed blanket.
“Go onto half’s,” she recommends.
So he buys two halves, instead of a pint.


she smirks as he wipes his sloppy mouth
with her origami napkin t-shirt;
leaves a brown stain on the shirt sleeves,
slurps his ninth pint.
Watches him leer at the catwalking
long legged, black stockinged
waitress in her tiny black dress
as she carries his hot apple pie
and custard, and places before him
with a seductive, pouted “Enjoy.” to his face,
and her cold fresh fruit salad.
She unfolds her origami napkin crane,
lays it on her lap, pauses an orange segment
before her dry mouth:
“We’re walking home tonight.”, she announces.


Sips her black filter coffee as he downs
his last two pints and winks
at the waitress.
Outside it is a slight cold evening.
He stumbles into the road
and raucous horns of drivers,

dilly dallies, messes with his trousers.
She sees an Artic gear toward him.
Rushes to… and is held back by the tiny cold
hands of a little girl in a gingham
dress and a little boy.
“I can’t. My kids.” she Shouts.
He screams. She watches the lorry kill him
and the kids hands leave her:
Her dead kids disappear
into the sweet iced silence.


She stands in front of his tooth
of a gravestone. Cuts back the weeds,
scrubs the cheap Yorkshire stone.
She only puts roses on her little boy
and girl’s graves as a thankyou.

“I’m happy.” she tells them.


Paul Brookes

Photo credit: Masks by Jonathan Suda.

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