I was following my family up a hill full of flowers we were all carrying white flowers when as I watched them go they disappeared. It was a scene from Fantasia or Bambi or both—doe-eyed fawn footings—intolerable whiteness—advice-giving rose-tinted clouds. As I followed I veered a little onto steeper ground where the flowers all but disappeared. I was hanging on the edge of a rock when I saw Daddy walking along the top. Daddy! said my mind but no word came out Daddy! said my slipping hands and feet. A small bird with a plump blue head walked past and chirruped Are you ok? I shook my head and she came and got me down from the rock.
And a mild throbbing
It was an accident. The whole afternoon. The whole afternoon with my ex-boyfriend and his new girlfriend. There must have been another way of getting back from the wedding but somehow there I was, being given a lift in their car. I was in the back and she wasn’t wearing any makeup and was being very nice and looked nice too. Relaxed like a shirt or pyjamas, or you after a good lunch. It turned out, conversation moving in this direction, that she had been to school with a man I’d never met who had set my new book of poems and written tiny sticky notes on foam throughout. One of these foam notes mentioned my ex.
I was bowled over by the coincidence of it, not too bothered by the poems but thinking Whamo! just like that, her, him, him and me, and now him, weird or what?
She was carrying a coolbox on her lap, turquoise if you’re interested. Halfway through the journey she opened it and took out some cold cream, which she passed to me and I rubbed into my throat to get cool. She was also keeping tampons in there, chilling, which I thought might be something to do with pregnancy. I tried to supress the thought. Does that make sense? I thought it and tried to unthink it almost at the same time. It was an accident but I had it anyway, pilfering through like they do, coming through the bushes at the last minute with a trumpet and a silver knife. This side will make you smaller, this side will pierce the skin and if you blow here, Whamo! you blow up and there’s no putting you back together.
The whole afternoon I kept having another thought (also supressed) that my ex-boyfriend was startlingly similar to my current one. Something about the eyes and the sweet long-suffering mildness, though of course, it was her he was long-suffering now.
I hate déjà vu. I hate even talking about déjà vu, perhaps because I remember a time when I thought it the pinnacle of sophistication to do so. Oh. Bother. Looking at him, which I could only do occasionally and out of the corners of my eyes, I found similarities, or repetitions. Spots of precise duplication of the person, and let’s not forget he is a person, who came after. That nose. Surely I haven’t glued the nose back on. And the Adam’s apple. I am sorry to be crude. The Adam’s apple has been here before. We’ve all been here before. The three of us, in the car on the way back from Scarborough, on really a very lovely day. Is it fair to say I have been here twice? Would that be an accurate way of putting it? Or would it be fairer to say I have come back again.
As we drove through a particular field he commented on the flowers that surrounded us. He said he was fond of hydrangeas. I found this very hard to believe.
I remembered then the feeling of being a sunflower, of reaching and following, stretching and black, and lying on the floor at lunch time alone in the house, drinking Tropicana. I have washed this man’s plates I thought to myself and tried to stop thinking altogether. What a wretched thing it is, tacky tomato ketchup, sticking to a plate.
It was an accident and really when you think about it not entirely my fault. I screamed it’s true and I did know what my screams do to him. But it was either that or continue to think. And neither of us would have survived that.
Walking into chirruping fields the little He watched the families
carry a small whiteness along the head
I was full slipping but I could see
where they were from there was hanging
He followed not a bone
they were carrying the from
the little He watched
my hands and Daddy
feet blue scene steeper but ok
I walked white
Fantasia Hill as when on go my footings
up and pointy polite
I got my shock when I saw you Daddy
Flowers flowers rocks and a rush-eyed Bambi on the edge
the whiteness disappeared
I said Are Sounds Coming?
the families were still
Both of the time there was an intolerable head out there
a bird where flowers were clouds
it veered up Daddy said are we Up or Down?
I blew a secret into my socks
white dog dirty and white
an eight horse sun
made me nervous
beauty can be VERY LOUD
and blue goes on and on
three kindnesses—a toast
and as they raised it
you could see each glinting person
hiding behind themselves sleek as boards
I prepared my inner life
Edwina Attlee is the author of two pamphlets of poetry, Roasting Baby (if a leaf falls press) and the cream (clinic).
The images are Robert Frank’s ‘Mabou (electric dog),’ circa 1982;
& Ralph Gibson’s ‘Horse and Hand from Days at Sea,’ circa 1974.