September. Someone hands me a copy of Larkin,
thirty eager teen faces search me for clues.
I will love teaching Larkin, I will embrace Larkin,
‘A’ Level Syllabi, York Notes, Spark Notes;
we’re going to crack this Larkin like a walnut.
October. Larkin has moved in. My photographs
are all of Larkin, the face on the television
belongs to Larkin. In the crisp mornings
birds are tweeting Larkin! Larkin! Larkin!
It’s Sunday lunchtime, thirty essays on Larkin
scream at me, Was Larkin a misogynist?
Was Larkin a misanthrope? Was Larkin a joker?
I give up and go in search of food. Larkin passes me
the leeks and compliments me on my choice of wine.
The term ends. We have done our Christmas quiz
on Larkin. ‘I hate Larkin’ says a small girl with eczema.
‘Tis the season to be Larkin. I go home with a suitcase
full of Larkin. On Boxing Day I drink brandy
and salute Larkin. I think I’m going Larkin.
Last night when I was asleep, Larkin was on top
of me again, grunting. His lenses were all steamed-up,
he enjoys the feel of the living, the way they move.
I fended him off with a hardback of New Women Poets
and woke up, relieved to see someone else.
You may turn over and begin. Mr. Larkin is your invigilator
for today. I raise my hand, ‘How do you spell MCMXIV?’
I ask him, he clips the back of my ear with a shatterproof ruler.
I draw a Smurf in the margin, I have forgotten everything
there is to know about Larkin. He gives up on me and leaves.
Larkin’s shoes make a lot of noise, they echo through the gym.
August. Twisted. They’re opening little envelopes,
some smile, some cry. A photographer from the local paper
takes photos of students throwing Larkin in the air.
I’m better now, cured of Larkin. The girl with eczema
has a lighter. I find a charred copy of High Windows
behind the gym with a used condom and a can of Lilt.
Never such innocence, as I think someone once said.
She is Here
The train’s ragged movement suits
her bones, the view is mother’s ruin,
a concrete map of haphazard streets;
White City, Westway, Wormwood.
No one saw her pass with a bag
through the ticket barriers, no one
saw her ride the bloodline through
the city. She is seventeen, invisible.
The words she was taught to speak
are strung from asphalt and pitch,
now she’ll meet the world head-on,
it will speak a different language.
Copyright © Maria Taylor, 2012