Pam Thompson – Bitchiness

(after Jane Kenyon)

There’s just no accounting for bitchiness
or the way it turns up like a co-worker
who returns to the seat next to you
in the open-plan office having won his tribunal
for dismissal. And how can you summon a smile
and make a feast in honour of what you hoped was lost,
and not take from its place in the kitchen cupboard
the oldest and smelliest mug which you’d hidden,
for such an occasion to offer lukewarm tea.
And you weep night and day because you hoped
you’d been abandoned and were not, that bitchiness
saved its most extreme form for you alone.

No, bitchiness is the cousin you’d rather forget,
who flies into your city from Australia, takes a taxi
from the airport, enquires at every door in your road
until she finds you, slumbering quietly in the nurturing
nest of your family, damns it all with charm and a witch’s tongue.
It burns in the gullet of the priest, the musician, doctor, carer,
swoops after the council-worker who sweeps railway-tunnels
through the night. It even comes to the railings separating
the rec from the railway line, to snow, trying to fall in sunshine,
to the tree in the hall lumbered with last year’s tinsel and baubles.

Pam Thompson is a poet and lecturer living in Leicester, one of the organisers of Word! at The Y Theatre in the city, a spoken word open-mic event. Her collections are ‘The Japan Quiz’, 2010, Redbeck Press and ‘Show Date and time’, 2006, Smith-Doorstop.