(Poetry selected by Luke Wright, Nasty Little Press)
Last week I walked through Maidenhead suburbs,
the houses huddled together in twos
like anorak-ed couples perched on a bench
on some autumn day at the end of a pier.
Past kids playing scrappy twenty-a-side;
lads leant on Bangra-blaring Golf GTIs;
Toyota Corollas with rear-view signs
on suckers: Dad’s Taxi, Baby on Board
and If you can read this I’ve lost my trailer.
Good old boys checking their tyre pressure,
mums with their offspring in car seats like shopping,
recycling bins, well-kept front gardens
neat as parade grounds, Valium quiet
and a blue door that made me think of a lido
I saw once before we were together,
before the life we made swelled in your belly -
cut into the rock, jutting out to sea.
That for a week I went to at sunset
to gobble my chips and imagine it crammed
full of tan-lined, knobbly British bodies
and wonder why my new romantic life
at mic’ stands felt perpetually out of season.
Yet last week in Maidenhead (of all places)
I felt strangely at ease with normality.
There was a time I’d walk through here scolding
tutting, talking in quotes and references;
too clever for nice weather and caravans;
too clever, too smart to be taken in.
Who’d want 2.4 children? I’d say
in visor and asymmetrical fringe.
Or What dickhead works nine to five?
while eating spaghetti hoops straight from the tin.
Disgusted at people who had settled,
shaking my dust till my fingers bleed.
Shaking my dust till it got up my nose
and I’d cough and sneeze for weeks on end.
Maybe it’s because I drive a Mondeo
and have started wearing trousers that fit
that I’ve realised that we do not die
with our affectations; if anything we live.
Life is not about being repeatedly hit
in the face or being applauded
or getting a laugh, it’s not about never staying
in the same place or being rewarded.
You can’t just be what other people aren’t.
You can’t plot your life like a misery memoir
or wait to hang smiles on the whims of strangers
or put out to tender your dictionary entry.
Ambition used to hunt me like a zombie
til I’d throw it bits of my poems like flesh;
I’d stare at my inbox hitting refresh;
I’d get places early just to catch my breath.
But now, I think of those ruddy-cheeked weavers
in lopsided seventeenth-century towns
who when they’d earned enough money that week
declared a Saint’s Day and went down the pub.
Centuries from the boy on his Blackberry
at Broadcasting House writing poems to go;
crying and wanking on fringe theatre stages;
twanging his id like a diddely-bo.
Motorways from a boy in a visor
trying to make it all mean something more;
wistfully staring at a swimming pool:
the lido is a metaphor for for for …
But last week I walked through Maidenhead suburbs
And though I knew I wouldn’t find an ending
I realised that I’ve learnt something new:
that sometimes it’s ok just to blend in.
Luke Wright is poet-in-residence on BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live and in 2009 took poetry onto prime-time with his Channel 4 special Seven Ages of Love. His first pamphlet – High Performance – was published by Nasty Little Press in November 2009.