My Grandfather’s funeral was all flight
no fight, a potted history of asbestos
and working class kingdoms.
Back at school. Joseph had a smile worn
exclusively by the sons of psychiatrists,
the big money in a small money town.
I carried the weight of all twelve years
of ‘us’, hand me downs and value
crisps from Chippenham to
Cornwall. The portrait of my grandfather
as a young man, where cycles are
polished and maintained
until the genes are baggy and dense.
My return was grass trodden
to mud and packed lunches
checked for mould-ripened crusts. Joseph,
the biblical son, the priest in
a family of clerics,
knew funerals were an excuse to break
bones. Still council streets and
burnt out bins, I heard
his Freudian slips from the lunch hall.
The problem with first punches
lies in the expectation,
and there’s never a rich kid who
knows how to fight for his
value. Do you know
what I mean Kate? Have you thrown
a fist in rage? My two up
two down tin mines
and Acton scars had taught me
to respond in the same way
my Grandfather met
death – by pushing against the tides
until the foam broke the
rules of gravity
in defence of both of our moons.
Now, I see a therapist every week
and pray I don’t have
to tell him about the time I took a punch from his son, before splitting his lip like the class divide.
– Aaron Kent
My grandfather said don’t tell me anything bad, just tell me the good.
Left me hovering over corpses in the yard like a seagull.
Waiting for someone who had a story covering the past, making it new.
Then Joseph, the Mexican kid who wouldn’t go by Jose, cast off the coat
of many colors to be American with a blond girlfriend, me.
He wanted to woo me and every one else from his Chippendale perch.
He wanted to chip away at the idea that the American cowboy had to be white.
I wanted to try for a dream where I was on the sill of success
taking off into the sky. Circling the wagons from the air.
Joseph and I went out on the town, rewrote our stories in the clouds.
I wasn’t poor. He wasn’t Mexican. We weren’t infidels from our faiths.
We were born again somebodies, soon to be discovered like sunshine.
You open the window, and there we are, so welcome, so lovely.
So everywhere you want to be. So California, so shining.
So catalog perfect, so gleaming and golden and glittering.
America is where you can bury your story corpse, till the soil,
plant new beans and come up singing with a new music.
We danced to the fancy dance music on the sawdust floors.
In Mexico, rich kids broke the law, smoked weed in the streets and cantinas.
Joseph and I broke no laws. We’re just into tequila, we said. Go ahead.
Do what you do. Hiding the true story. There was no one to rescue us.
We could rot in Mexican jails till the cops come home from the whorehouses,
And still we’d be there. No one rapping on the windows, no one offering bail.
All of you have an escape hatch. We admitted to no one our hatchless condition.
When I left him next to the taco stand to move to California, the sun was setting.
I could see it shining through his hair. I left him with a wet kiss.
We said, I will see you again. We said, I will call you in the morning.
In California, there were heaps of riches for somebody else.
Elegant houses for other people. Dresses, cars, streets, shops and bellhops
for people born into the right families. Jobs and suits and funny shoes.
My fist shaking days are past. Fistfuls of hair. Now I breathe in smog and run.
You breathe. You don’t have to keep up. If you were born without legs.
You learn to fly. Your dark parts touch the sky. Your dark parts matter only
In that they define your reason to fly. Oh California, I’m on to you.
– Kate Gale