‘Falling down, falling down’ by Alison Brackenbury

Falling down, falling down

If I ate no cake,
if I ate two cakes,
if I lingered by biscuits,
disdained cauliflower,
if I had not turned
my face to the sun
if the man had not rushed
from the petrol station
dodging before me,
like you, a dancer,
if I had glanced down-

Is that my blood?
Are those my glasses?
That tooth will cost-
Thank you. Oh no!
Not an ambulance.
And don’t call my husband.
I am used to this.
I have fallen off horses.
New raw, rich blood
drops warmly through tissue.
I will call A & E,
I promise. I lie.

‘You’ve done it this time,’
says the bathroom mirror.
My lip is two rags.
With the stained flannel clasped,
I set the cool yogurt,
the crisp and cruel celery
safe on their shelves.
Then I call upstairs.

If I shut my eyes
in Gloucestershire Royal
at one a.m.
I can tick them off,
the London trip,
the din of the party,
falling, falling. Here instead
is a girl, in a wheelchair,
slightly less battered
than my changed face.
Her escort swears,
black-eyed, black-coated,
at stern Reception:
‘They want me sectioned.’
They may be right.

Falling, falling
at Gloucestershire Royal
a fair-faced girl
pulls the threads tight,
white skin, rose flesh,
like plaits on a pony,
my black blood clotted,
thick as the night.
‘How many stitches?’
‘Ten,’ she shimmers.
Put back the cake.
Walk out, upright.
Alison Brackenbury‘s eighth collection is Then, Carcanet Press, 2013 (now available to order). New poems and blog posts can be read at: www.alisonbrackenbury.co.uk