James Giddings

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the poet

Born in Johannesburg and now living in Sheffield in the north of England, James Giddings is the author of Everything is Scripted, published in 2016 by Templar Poetry.

the poems

Look inside

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            At the base of the back of my neck is the button you press

            to get a look inside. One firm push with your thumb and FWIP!

            my head pops back like the top of a kettle and a noise strikes

            the same tone as a microwave casserole when it’s cooked,

            a mushroom cloud of steam ballooning from the neck hole

            of my thin cigarette body. Once you’ve released all that hot air,

            take a peek, you’ll see there’s not much there: no gold elements,

            no dial tone of great intellect, just a feeling, as if staring down

            a deep ravine. There seems as if there’s no end to it, until you

            throw something down and a sound calls back from the bottom.

There are versions of us
in alternate universes

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     One  where  we’re  partners  on a buddy cop  show  who stand  back-to-back

     with  our  guns  raised  as  our  theme  tune  swells  to  a  crescendo and the

     screen  detonates,  our  names  exploding out  of  picture. Another where we

     bloom  on  trees like bright fruit  and our lives are spent  waiting for the great

     fall.  Then there’s  the one  where I am  your  father and you  are my son, and

     you  are  crying because  you’re hungry  and I am  crying because I can’t get

     the  car  seat  to  bloody  fit,  but we stop, for a few seconds, each of us near

     silent  when  we  catch the  eyes  of  the other. One where we are giant glass

     shards  reflecting.  Another  where  we  are  bank robbers, our  ears pressed

     against  a  safe  door  like expectant  fathers listening for a heartbeat. Another

     where  we  wait  in  a  long  line  for the entrance  to  Hell and both complain

     about  how  long  it’s  taking. And  even  though  I   know   there   are  worse

     universes  than  ours,  I can’t  shake the one in which  each night  you tell me

     all the unextraordinary words you know like spam, hardcopy and telemarketer,

     then right  before you  leave, say a  couple of  extraordinary  ones, which are

     only  so  because  of   how   rarely  I’ve   heard  you  utter them in this world.

No requests

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            I’m working on my vanishing act,

            an homage to my father.

            To learn more


            I attend a show where the magician starts

            by sawing a ladle in half.

            To further subvert the genre


            he pulls a hat out of a rabbit,

            places the rabbit on his head

            like a toupee


            and shaves it into oblivion

            with a set of clippers, leaving the cue ball

            of his bald head shining.


            Do the one where the father

            disappears and you bring him back

            on stage! I heckle,


            but he doesn’t do requests.

            Next he does a card trick entirely

            with birthday cards, which, in a feat


            of anti-gravity, levitates the heart

            in my chest. With love, one reads,

            then his signature, a single kiss.


            Impressed, I shout, do the one

            where you bring back the father!

            But he still doesn’t do requests.


            Next he stretches a ten pence piece

            leaving the Queen’s face

            visibly frustrated. Then he solves


            a Rubik’s cube by throwing it

            behind his back; it is so convincing

            and easy, I hope a policeman


            might hand him a murder case.

            I rise from my seat, plead, please

            do the one where you bring back the father!


            He gestures off-stage theatrically,

            magics up security and I’m escorted out

            through a plain grey door.


            No traps. No secret panels.

            I never got to see the big finish,

            whether he did the trick,


            but I waited anyway, checking every face

            that left the auditorium,

            hopeful he had pulled it off.

Publishing credits

Look Inside: exclusive first publication by iamb

There Are versions of Us in Alternate Universes:

  Poetry Wales (Vol. 56, No. 2)

No Requests: Poetry London (Issue 97)