If Not/Not If

With a classics education I’d’ve written
like Harrison in referential rhyme
and musically trained I’d’ve been a little Britten
fond of the triad and the old Alde’s tidal slime
or gender fluid in a quilted jumpsuit
I’d’ve been a rad saxophonist
a Spider using all my legs to toot
my way up the Musical Express top twenty list

However I missed the Sophoclean tide
the chill East coast and red Martian tide
the custom McLaren sputumed Mohawk tide
I missed the language wave although I saw it
I missed the Warhol wash although I heard it
and to my surprise I missed the mighty breakers
of wild women rushing overhead and wilder makers
making sense of my Other life in Women-French

I sat like a substitute on the culture bench
dreaming in album covers of other lovers
smoothing my fella’s trousers beneath hot iron
while I whistled Dvorak’s New World Symphony
I wrote and painted like any seventies wench
sent 18th century poetry to my Dutch crush Kees
so transparent it was replied to as if by a lion
O infamy infamy the world had it in for me

I missed the children I left in a feminist huff
I missed the idea of love hating Sartre the most
I missed myself I missed the chance of myself
and all the wonder of excellence dreck in the surf
the books I read seeming poisonous as if ideas
could translate into action without hurt
and in a finger click would not O my dears
become old age and scrabbling at coffin dirt

I now strike IF from my vocab and honour the small
the planted seedlings snail damage and all
loving Tony Harrison for being unfashionable
and Britten for waves that smashed down the sea wall
and Bowie for staying with me as a Black Star
and everything I thunk I once was and are
my body going South like a swift and happy painting fences
rather than master mistress ms or trans mutable pieces

I don’t wish fame or the lack of to be a thing
when all I`ve done is written what I wrote
with part of me still ironing wiping and crying
and part of me holding my chin up to stay afloat
and part of me running around with my hair on fire
and part of me serene as a smiling buddha
with gratitude bizarre at being awkward and stupid-clever
and the world no more improbable to be in than ever




Sandra Tappenden

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