Bubblegum Pop

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

I want to pipe bubblegum pop through white headphones,
to you in one earbud and me in the other
then drop it on the tarmac as a permanent reminder
when your phone rings and I have to be off.

I want to spend more time in your mouth than crisps
and cling to your teeth at the back, out of sight
and make you crave unhealthy cravings
that your body was never meant to feel so much for.

I want us laminated. Shiny and bright, preserved
with a sun-bleached best-of date that doesn’t matter,
like the empty bag of sweets in your garden by the conifers
with only an out-of-fashion logo to show its age.

We can always see that bag there in the undergrowth,
past its best. Pale, plasticky rubbish wraps look ugly
in the soil, refusing to rot, but you still
don’t want to chuck ‘em.

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The Right Thing

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

Doing the right thing is easy,
but it isn’t much of a thing.
You get a little bold, a little brave,
but then, oh, you have to do the thing
and it’s done.

Nobody says a thing about it
or cries or stares or anything.
No-one shouts about how you’re strong or smart:
they just get back to their everyday nothing
and feel good.

But you don’t feel a thing.
Maybe just a sort of itching
like a tingling telling you something boring
as people forget whatever kind of right thing
you just did.

The worst thing is
when even you don’t notice.
You just did it on instinct, smiling, whistling,
twiddling your thumbs and not thinking anything
really at all.

That’s why I do the wrong thing.

Pram

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast
Published in the Live From Worktown 2014 anthology

A bakery, takeaway, charity shop,
Chicco logo, scuffed shiny grey
plastic handles, bent-over bus-stop.
I’m showing you the park today.

Chicco logo, scuffed shiny grey,
cold sun-glare in both of our eyes.
I’m showing you the park today.
For now just look up at the sky.

Cold sun-glare in both of our eyes.
You lie back and see mummy’s chins.
For now just look up at the sky.
Keep flashing that fat kiddie grin.

You lie back and see mummy’s chins
and laugh at my upside-down smile.
Keep flashing that fat kiddie grin
and stop fiddling, just for a while,

and laugh at my upside-down smile!
Don’t notice my dirty old nails
and stop fiddling, just for a while-
look! Here’s the Pirates’ Nature Trail.

Don’t notice my dirty old nails,
plastic handles, bent-over bus-stop.
Look. Here’s the Pirates’ Nature Trail,
a bakery, takeaway, charity shop.

Coloured pottery lid, Egyptology

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

A big blue circle drawn
with long, wavy arches,
uneven edges all round,
faded and dull.

The curves are sunbeams,
painted for Ra by hands
that couldn’t keep
inside the chunky lines.

The piece is shaped
horribly. Fat fingers
have left lumps
on its buckled edges

and it lags here
behind old museum glass,
not wasting a speck
of static, rough pot.

The ancient who made it
couldn’t be proud of this.
But we’ve kept the exhibit
as long as I remember.

Pale people in factory
cotton and plastic
come see it every day.
Squinting, thinking.

Someone like me glued
together these cracks,
chose where to stick it,
this thing that we made,

like your kid’s drawing
held by fridge magnets.
A still stick-man family
and a big yellow sun.

Slug Guts, or Entosthia Gymnosalianga

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

A boy spread strawberry jam on his toast, his father watched
and they stood a minute.
How come strawberries taste wet and bitter, he asked,
but jam is good and sticky?

The father looked over the tinged brown glasses he kept
from another century.
Because strawberry jam, he brass-rasped, nearly wept,
is raw slug slurry.

The stuff of ground, slain slugs is just too delicious,
so we call it squashed berries.
We grown-ups say it’s jam, tar our lives complicit
in sweet, shared atrocity.

Slugs’ organs are too tasty not to eat, the boy heard
and stale nose-breath eased onto him.
Strawberry jam is a clever word, lad. An old word.
A good word. A euphemism.

The father’s rusty eyes, round, brown, rested
and the boy glanced about.
His fingers stuck to the jar’s surface
where the juice had gotten out.

His flecked red tongue firmed in his mouth, clinging
at stained teeth like a prisoner.
The residue in his throat sucked, unreasoning,
begging for slime and moisture.

The father said, they bury the skins in the mud. His eyes
seemed heavy on his skull.
Each speck is scraped from flesh, slid off knives
’til the jam men’s pits are full.

The father’s iron, scratched hands scooped the toast
and the jaws did their lifework.
There are always good words, groaned his hard throat
with pip cracks and red slurps.

The boy reeled, reading ingredients, his father fed
and they stood a minute.
There were clever words in the kitchen and there was bread.
The jam was good and sticky.

Pins and Needles

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

Red Riding Hood stared
at the wolf man
at the crossroads
at the path of needles
and the path of pins.
The meaning was lost on her.

His yellow eyes were saturated
with wisdom.
The wolf knew
grandma would know
and the woodcutter could cut.
The girl had no idea.

The black paths had names
to do with sewing.
To solve the riddle,
to get through the woods,
you have to work out the best way,
the safe path.
Her feet were tingling.

Grey wolves are old sinners.
They know the stories
and know the needles
are easier in the long run.
The girl was big enough
to learn to sew the hard way.

Or else she was small enough
to be eaten up.

Whole.
Her choice.

To Die Would Be an Awfully Big Adventure

by Chris Buchanan
Poetry, 2013
From the collection Growing Up Too Fast

Peter says you’re growing up too fast.
Says you’re getting too big for your tree
and we can’t let you stay here forever.
You’ve had your time. You have to fly.
Maybe someone somewhere else will
come in the night for you?

Your stay on the island is finished.
Tink says you’d better run, you silly ass,
because Pan thins us out when we grow,
tells the rest we got away or got lost,
to the pirates or the redskins or the beast
with the clock in its gut.

The sun’s going down on the mainland
and the windows are barred back home.
Slightly says Tootles thinks you could swim
to Hook’s ship, if they don’t drown you.
Go build a new home in your dreams
boy. You’ll never come back.