I lost my shoes on Rachel St.
Head lolled back to rest
against a pillow of the Mont
kiss the foot of the electric cross
tongue kinked, jawbone clattering
to the pneumatic dentistry on Saint Denis.
I lost my grip on Rachel St.
The length of me flopped
to smother the aloof and watchful city,
my arms heat-heavy bisected the grid,
wrists came to rest on fretful bridges.
I thrust my hands to trail
the sludge of the river bottom,
rested my ankles between the railroad tracks,
between the enormous craters blisters on my toes.
I lost my skirt on Rachel St.
The breeze whipped it
as in the slipstream of a passing skater
as his fingers edged under the hem
violating as a muttered curse.
I watched it float softly across the highway
where every town genuflects down.
Took a shine to the church’s thrust,
considered commerce’s glint,
but in the end took the Olympic Stadium
as a lover
ever the sacred athletic aesthetic
perfected performance of the wordless flesh preferred.
Speak they whispered on Rachel St
but a dog had run away with my tongue.
The city, the shape of a kiss, an open mouth,
and I unable to name my neck from my ass.
All summer long I lay on Rachel St
my raw elbows twisting to touch treetops
struck high and dry on sidestreets.
I winked at traffic lights, shook creamy thighs
to the wind up wail of the firetrucks.
Speak! they commanded on Rachel St
as the ducks drifted silent and unified as iron filings.
In the park gullible yahoos googled me digital —
could never snap me all at once,
the whale balloon tethered
the ballet of the open mouth moving
SPEAK! they howled on Rachel St.
I licked my salty lips
mouthed silent curses
these fat and heavy words
that filled the mouth with spit
but nothing uttered.
All summer long, I lay on Rachel St,
as horses tramped through my hair,
as carpenter ants, raccoons, scurried
out of the warm hairy musk of my nostrils,
the moist nest of my armpits
used for meetings of clandestine lovers –
SPEAAAKKKKKK! they screamed on Rachel St
fire hydrants exploded with joy
spilt their strawberry load
falling between meanings
like cracks in the tarmac –
So piece by piece on Rachel St
they stripped me for spectacle.
Pulled out my hair to stuff
winter jackets, jacked up my teeth
for paving slabs, lashed my skin to ribbons
for balcony umbrellas, toenails for boat races,
and my eardrums extracted for the tamtams weekly prayer
I lost my name on Rachel St.
My work ethic.
My childhood fears.
began to move to flick when
everything else was nearly gone
and we had been silent long enough
the ones who lay heavy in the street
on Rachel St we dug in our heels
we lumbered to our feet on Rachel St
kicked aside the railway tacks
and on Rachel St we lifted our tongues
we opened our mouths
and with those waves of sound
we tilted the city
we sank the silence.
About this poem
This poem was included in Best Scottish Poems 2017. Best Scottish Poems is an online publication, consisting of 20 poems chosen by a different editor each year, with comments by the editor and poets. It provides a personal overview of a year of Scottish poetry. The editor in 2017 was Roddy Woomble.