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Thomas McColl



the poet

Thomas McColl lives in London and has published two collections of poetry – Being With Me Will Help You Learn and Grenade Genie. He's read as a featured poet at many events in London and elsewhere, including Hearing Eye, Paper Tiger Poetry, Celine's Salon and The Quiet Compere. Thomas has also been featured on East London Radio, BBC Radio Kent, BBC Radio WM and TV's London Live.

the poems

Susan Sharp

00:00 / 00:59

            Susan Sharp was what my first employer, 

            the local butcher,

            called the knife he’d use to slice the meat. 

            By way of explanation,

            he said he spent more time with Susan

            than he ever did with his wife.

            ‘Tis pity she’s a knife,' he’d joke,

            but most of the time

            he was simply singing Susan’s praises – 

            saying how much he loved her serrated, lop-sided smile,

            her blood-red lipstick, her lust for naked carcasses,

            and the ease with which she’d split a heart in two,

            yet always give in to his demands.

            On my first day, 

            he threatened to slice off my hands

            when I went to touch her.

            ‘There’s only one commandment in a butcher’s shop,’ he scowled.

            ‘Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s knife.’

            Working at that butcher’s shop was my first job,

            and I didn’t even manage to last a week

            with that paranoid psycho freak,

            and Susan Sharp, his knife,

            who he’d fallen in love with

            and spent more time with

            than he ever did with his wife.

Look at That!

00:00 / 01:01

            'Daddy – look at that!

            a top hat on a tea pot,' 

            you shout,

            as we stop just a little too close 

            to a china display in the shop

            and, with a swipe of your hand,

            you make a fat pot-headed Victorian gentleman

            involuntarily doff his hat,

            and a second later, 

            you realise why he doesn't do that – 

            even though he's Victorian 

            and you're a lady 

            (albeit a little madam) – 

            when his hat 

            (which, foolishly, 

            he'd had made 

            out of posh china 

            rather than plush silk) 

            smashes into pieces on the floor.

            And while you sob and sulk at the realisation, 

            I pay the bill for the damage,

            while keeping an eye out, 

            as I'm carrying you,

            that you don't knock any 

            of the many 

            ornate objects

            crowded round the till,

            but instead your damned dinky destructive digit

            starts prodding the top of my face,

            and my invisible top hat 

            (which, foolishly, 

            I'd had made out of frayed nerves 

            rather than woven silk)

            is once more pushed to the edge,

            and once more 

            (just about) 

            remains in place.

Hard Tears

00:00 / 00:43

                        I often cried in front of you – 

                        sometimes when you hit me, 

                        once when, 

                        as you were teaching me to ride a bike, 

                        you let go of the handlebars 

                        and losing control I fell off, 

                        and once, when teaching me DIY, 

                        you gave me a heavy claw hammer 

                        to bang some nails into wood 

                        and I proceeded to bang my thumb instead.

                        ‘For Pete’s sake!’ you said, disgusted. 

                        ‘You’re thirteen. Don’t you think it’s about time 

                        you managed to resist the urge to blub like a girl 

                        every time you get hurt?’

                        Well, I never cried in front of you again – 

                        not even years later at your funeral. 

                        Though I was devastated, 

                        the tears just wouldn’t come. 

                        I wish you could have seen it. 

                        You’d have been proud.

Publishing credits

Susan Sharp: Co-incidental 4 (The Black Light Engine Room)

Look at That!: Ink, Sweat & Tears

Hard Tears: Burning House Press

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