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.
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
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.
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.
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)