Jen Campbell, 26, grew up in the north east of England, went to Edinburgh University,
and now lives in London where she works in an antiquarian bookshop. She's a published
poet and short story writer. Her poetry pamphlet The Hungry Ghost Festival was published
by The Rialto in 2012, and she is also the author of the bestselling Weird Things Customers
Say in Bookshops. The sequel, More Weird Things Customers Say in Bookshops, will be
published by Constable & Robinson 18th April 2013. http://www.jen-campbell.co.uk
One of those Sunday afternoons no one knows how to use. Picking rosemary
in oversized wellingtons. Green ones. Grease and Singing in the Rain parading
out. Mam and dad arguing over lamb about which to glue their daughters to.
The carving knife lying by my sister's bear. I peer through rain drops on the
living room window. Warp a birdhouse I won. I'd painted leaves colours of
refracted light. Given cloud edges. Beetroot dipped. A photographer'd come
to picture it and me. For the Echo, both of us. A chipped fag half-hanging out
his mouth. He never took it out. Knelt on the patio paving with ten clicks and
cracks. 'Smile, pet.' A red blue yellow waistcoat knitted by grandma. Non-flying
ladybirds as buttons. I coaxed my bird lips upwards, then the flash. Eight years
of scraped knees. We put Grease on at school. Danny played by the campest
lad and we couldn't sing the big songs 'cause of money. During scenes the car
doors slammed. Pony tail competitions backstage in lycra catsuits. Fruit gums
for those who got it highest. Just grocers' cardboard between teenage girls
ripping off their clothes, the boys on the left. Cathy spied my dad nipping out
for a cigarette. Used to swear he never smoked. Didn't take an umbrella and
somewhere it was prom night. It was hot out there in the auditorium. It was
like a fish out
I have pictures of us kissing tv screens. June spent trying to map the weight in
your eyes. Where it ran to: those etch-a-sketches. Shook you up in black and
white. Beds in separate rooms for you to lie down in when your mum called.
We stop-watched those. Spent our lunch times in catsuits. Your skin scaling:
peeling. All the water drained; staring out of a classroom window at the water.
Some days, I remember, we'd go over to the cliff tops. Just to look and to feel.
The sun light-bulbing on a netball pitch. Some days I look at you. Your mother
and her pity-me-face next to a microwave nodding to the seconds before the
ping. She brings soup to your room so you're not dehydrated. So you have no
need to look out the window at the water. So you have no need. No need at all.
When we think, we think of beginnings
when I was a bairn and my folks took me to the circus:
showed me the clowns; their red faces,
bought me blue candy floss that melted all over my hands.
These hands could fly, their bandages unravelling.
I could be a bird, I said; I had the hooked nose for it,
shot out of the canon.
It was only later I discovered I was born out of the sea.
In the beginning me and the world stood either side of telescopic geography - with suns and moons,
as frisbee jets caught under foot. We had to pass each other without dropping time, salute across
our running field. The embryonic path. The genetic pool.
The dawn and dusk of fingers crossing
and my fingers were trees.
That's how I think. Of branches
stuck together. Of joints shaped like elephants
which I felt-tipped faces on.
Where a hand is a tortoise: my palm its shell.
(It is strange to have something and not know how to name it
like a guest plonked in your kitchen for twenty four years.)
When the internet was born - a virus on wheels - I found it.
Its name fell out. You could Google the freak shows:
the staring faces of a family who held their hands up like meat.
In America: The Lobster Boy
who sat behind bars and the whole world watched.
Popcorn falling on weekend trips. A whole lot of weak knees.
Yet we stand now, as trees, as birds.
As land-walking sea-women. And
we are not caged. We fly.
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