Eliot North is a writer, doctor and educator living in Valencian Country, Spain. Her poem yolk was nominated for the 2020 Pushcart Prize by Black Bough Poetry. Her debut digital chapbook Born in a Pandemic was published by IceFloe Press in May 2020. Eliot was commended in the National Poetry Competition in 2014 for her poem The Crab Man, and her work in various forms has appeared in Firewords, Structo, Acumen, Re-side, Dovecote, The Broken Spine Artist Collective, Perhappened and Ink Sweat & Tears.
the candyfloss hut
Bordeaux, France 1994
I wander through Aqualand at night, muggy evening, Bordeaux-sticky. The place is closed to the general public, choir off-duty. Thirteen years old in my saggy blue Speedo suit, arms hugged tight to my budding chest. Inside my own head most of the time, I enjoy conversation with myself. Silence wraps me in a bubble. I stand on the edge of the high-board, toes curled over the ledge, naked urge to make the jump: an unobserved leap into dark. Emboldened, I climb metal stairs towards the death slide, bare-footed, alone with fear. I sit with my hands crossed at the top, stare down the vertical drop. Senses alive to cicada wings, pine resin, cold starlight. I lean back. Nobody is there to witness my fall, that weightless feeling: knowing I might leave the confines of the narrow black plastic, smash into French grey concrete or fly. Then the rush of water, it cuts me in two. The pain only adding to my sense of triumph as I walk, legs shaking, towards the main pool. Sit on the water jets, one by one. Watching moonrise over the candyfloss hut, I soak it all up. Waves of pleasure rippling my flush pink face.
Granny Loved To Squeeze It
Grandpa Freeman was
as tall as he was round.
I remember his neck
the folds of flesh,
that huge blackhead
nestled at the join.
How Granny loved
to squeeze it.
For years she’d been
trying to pop it out,
puffing on her cigarette,
sweat beaded on her brow.
We used to encourage her,
watch in awe as she tried,
their arguments always
ending in a squeeze.
A punishment he seemed
willing to endure
until the day it came out,
that plug of grime.
Years of dead skin and dirt
gathered in one expansive pore.
WHOOSH! It flew across the kitchen,
left a crater as big as my thumb.
But after that day,
there was nothing left to do,
Grandpa seemed deflated,
their arguments less heated.
And not long after,
On the day they let the children out
it was a Sunday towards the end of April.*
Nature had taken over the intervening weeks:
swallows raced along narrow streets,
house martins nested under every eave.
Butterflies danced in pairs, on pavements,
decorating the path to the river
unabashed and blousy.
Bees hummed a new tune, saddle bags full
of pollen as they tumbled past
waving flower to flower.
Dazzle of dragonfly keeping pace with our pram,
parakeets squabbled in giant palms
by the old Muslim wall.
Familiar rustle of silver birch leaves
shivered down the city’s spine,
two heron slipped past the repurposed
hawk-drawn circles overhead.
We couldn’t help but look directly at the sun,
similar to the crows,
worry melting in the uncorked springtime air.
Wood pigeons cooed to us like newborns
from struts of the old iron bridge,
the opal Xúquer river, gurgling below our feet.
Sugar canes creaked and cracked
birdsong so loud, it seemed nature
had been dialled up especially.
A white dove, branch in its beak
flapped overhead. We scuffed our feet,
the hour allotted over too soon.
On the day they let the children out
peals of laughter joined in joyful riot,
their animal selves unlocked, at last,
parents blinked, all startled deer:
a safe two meters from each other.
* The Spanish government relaxed lockdown on 26th April 2020 so that children were allowed outside for the first time, for one hour, accompanied by one parent.