She is not really the one they want,
Not if they had the pick of the whole
world’s good behaviour, but it’s
Today’s the Day! and for breakfast
She piles lemon curd on thick, Ryvitas
Breaking from the strain,
They watch her, wishing, but she is
she today, and they look at her
As if she is good.
Get ready for the main parcel, burst with
Excitement! Roller skates! Spirograph! And
Patent boots! Kisses on both
Parents, kisses on both cheeks!
They smile to say we are glad, we love you
We love you as if you were lying down
Nice and flat between two sheets and never
Shouting when the light goes off.
They have Hygena magazines, full of
Athletic, soft-haired girls, grown-uply taking
Round plates of Ritz crackers for the visitors
And she dreams of outfits for
Sitting on the edge of wine and cheese
Parties, passing along the stabs of Danish
Blue, Pan-Yan poked on Cheddar cubes,
Liver sausage applied like grouting.
Parties which they will never have, because of
How stilettos gouge crescents in parquet and
The marks men make in kitchens and
You can never replace pottery and
People will go upstairs and catch sight
Of all the disgrace strewn about.
But it’s today’s the day
The date’s so sharp it won’t keep still
Polite men with their buttons tight have it
On their newspapers, but they carry on
As if being her is not written down in glittering mauve
And pink and bluey-green,
A badge pinned on of being alive
The teacher puts your name up the night before, so
In the morning everyone will sing before
They pray. Even the smelly girl would get looked at
As if she was shiny and doing well, and outside they
Parade her cheering on chairs of hands.
Certain girls have their best dresses in paper bags,
peek like fairies at each other’s weddingy shoes
It’s today’s the day and
Her maroon pinafore stands out
Smooth. Mum and Auntie have lipstick
On their teeth. Dad and Uncle rub their
Hands together, while statues dance to
Music, and iced gems break in little bowls and
Hot fingers press the prickly carpet, the home-made
Sideboard stretches all along one wall, it’s
Hard against the head and up close under
Splintering veneer is the smell of
Sawdust from the butcher’s floor.
Round and round, the candles saluting brightly:
Six. seven, eight, nine ten
It’s today’s the day and
Everyone opens their eyes up really wide
Mum points the knife and
A secret wish turns to sin
The slope is slippery again, well it
Is the middle of winter, and at
Seven o’clock she screams, she
Claws, she runs like a sheepdog
The day rips open and her dark and
Sticky self falls out.
It does you good
To be told off on your birthday.
But she is one day nearer to goodness
And another year of waiting for