tell me where your childhood shrivelled on the cracked
earth coarse grass of your parents’ neglected lawn were you
left too long in the sun no one careful to find you shade
Twenty years later a kid from Brooklyn made a film. The Squid and the Whale.
He’d had it rough. Both his parents were writers:
Dad a beached novelist, spouting off
to his hot female students; Mom wrapping her tentacles round rave reviews,
an ex-tennis pro, the pulpy hearts of her sons. The future director
apes his father’s pretensions; his little brother jacks off in the library
smears fistfuls of sperm all over the books.
Divorced academics served up as an indie-flick squirm-fest.
In Cinema Four at the Camden Odeon, I indulged my love of projection –
Laura Linney’s straight brown hair, Pink Floyd’s The Wall,
teenage self-bondage: a banquet of light, made just for me.
I could have licked the screen.
Now I didn’t have to write that nauseating novel:
A midwestern campus town. The eighties. Who slept with who,
when, where and why? Which kid walked in? Who took the dog? Who
blamed the feminist dean? Who couldn’t cook? Who tried smoking dope?
Who remarried? Who shacked up? Who ordered every cocktail on the menu
and loudly sang the praises of the clit? Who forked out for tuition? Who
paid off my credit card? Who hummed Leonard Cohen’s ‘Joan of Arc’
when I shaved my head and dyed the stubble blonde? Who made me
wear a hat until my hair grew back?
Who never properly lived
with either one again? Who went to study in Toronto, shagged every last
cowpunk on Queen St, ate a Polish bakery, stuck her finger down her
throat? Who gained a stone anyway, came home for Christmas looking
pregnant? Whose ‘home’ was two new houses? Who devoured two
helpings of turkey and pudding, took the dog for a walk, vomited
into a hole in the snow?
Who, in the end that is never The End,
thought it was better both parents were ‘happy’? Who swallowed
the whole fucking prairie (dirt, nettles, thistles) stowed it for years
in her bathysphere belly, disgorged it an ocean away?
tell me where…: from ‘damage’ in Brenda Riches, Something to Madden the Moon (Turnstone Press, 1991).