Two poems by Jacqueline Saphra

Hampstead 1979

He says he’s a Gemini too,
always wears white linen
to parties and is a recreational

heroin user in an open
relationship. He whispers
lunch and writes his number

on a £1 note and yes
on a rainy Friday he buys me
real champagne at Sheekey’s,

feeds me oysters with his fingers
pays with the dregs
of his overdraft.

All night he toys with me limply
but lovingly on the floor of
my childhood room

and when The Girlfriend
arrives to pick him up
the next morning as arranged

but two hours early and his tongue
is confusingly in my ear
it falls to my early-rising mother

to open the door and offer tea
and conversation to The Girlfriend
who admires my mother’s

easy way with the I Ching
and spider plants, falls in love with
her collection of African beads

and new alfalfa sprouter and
(my mother tells me later) is slimmer
than I am, with longer hair.
(first published in Ambit)
Getting into Trouble

Mr Giles said he didn’t want the school used as a political jousting ground and made me take the pro-abortion poster down, although I explained patiently that the ancient Romans didn’t mind it, that the church was okay with it in the 13th Century until quickening (when, they said, the soul enters the body), and the statute books condoned it.

Michelle, who was a Born Again, insisted life was ensouled even before conception; Clare believed that once the foetus was viable it had a right to exist, my mother said she didn’t believe in the primacy of the unborn, and I sat in biology wondering if I had a soul, and if I did, where it was. I daydreamed of knitting needles, coat hangers and permanganate.

After my mother came back from hospital – unharmed, grateful and political, only to find that my stepfather had spent her emergency money on canvasses and Carlsberg and dinner with that woman in Portobello Road, she sent me straight to the doctor to get myself a Dutch cap.

My boyfriend who was stupid but useful told all his friends I was a virgin and forced me to see Close Encounters of the Third Kind three times and listen to nothing but Genesis, which I preferred to The Sex Pistols, because I never believed there was No Future, not when my mother was, at least for now, empty-wombed and full of soul, as she stirred a pot of her famous lentil soup, not yet tied by blood to the man she loved.
(first published in Poetry Review)
Jacqueline Saphra teaches at The Poetry School. Her first full collection, The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions, (flipped eye) was nominated for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. An illustrated book of prose poems, If I Lay On My Back I Saw Nothing But Naked Women, was recently published by The Emma Press.