Aside 9 Jan

All You Need


Right now she sits beneath us all,

Beneath our king prawns and limes and coconut rice

Beneath the alcohol free cocktail I knew my brother was going to order.

She wasn’t there last November.

Revealed to me in Burger King – a steakhouse Angus between my teeth in the corner of those services off the M1.

I fathered another child he said.

She’s 25, been deprived of a father, making it even harder for him to accept.

My dad told me he left because he couldn’t handle her mother’s madness


Translucent BBQ sauce has adhered itself to my finger.

My tongue wraps around and waters it down

But it tastes just too old to be good anymore.


My Dad’s eyes are magnified through glasses he bought for £7.50 at the library in Beckenham.

So I summon these memories  

Taking me back fifteen years and they’re not mine

They’re ours


All the flowers we said we’d press in one of those books that have pages like pink panther wafer bars.

The scar on my chin and the blood on his old denim jacket from when he held me after my first bike accident.

Never forgetting how brave they said I was in A&E.

Picking me up in boots for shoplifting when I was fourteen

Paying for it all, but still loving me.


I don’t think she ever had all that, so I tell you this.

My eyes cross the space between us, coming back to your crossed arms caressed by your blue and grey fleece,

And I wonder if my acceptance is enough.

You tell me,

That’s all you need.




There’s a lot I want to do with this and a few bits I’m unsure of so please leave comments 🙂


3 Responses to “”

  1. anneholloway January 25, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

    there is something really moving about this poem – I would like some speech marks for clarity in places though:

    “I fathered another child,” he said.

    “She’s 25, been deprived of a father,” making it even harder for him to accept.

    I get confused when you jump from talking about dad in third person, to ‘you’ – are you still talking to your dad?

    I also got confused about ‘she’ and had to read through quite a few times to get my head round it – but maybe that’s just me.

    You say there’s a lot you want to do with this – but I love the brevity of it – sitting in a motorway service station sharing a huge piece of history like that – it’s enough.

  2. mouthypoets January 25, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi Cleo,

    As always, a pleasure to read your work – you write the kind of poetry I love to read!
    As I said to you last week, I think your first step is free writing and free writing and freewriting. Probably till you cry for hours (or maybe it is just me that does that?) I think you need to do this first, because otherwise you will never feel like you have got out all you need to say out this situation. However, If you don’t feel ready to do that, I understand and we can just look at this poem. But either way, really decide what you want this poem to achieve for you and the audience before you start cutting. That goes for listening and applying my advice below too…

    -Great specificity and engagement through the senses from the word go. You build the scenario and the sense of character through showing me concrete details. Not a cliché in sight. Love it.
    -“ BBQ sauce has adhered itself to my finger.
    My tongue wraps around and waters it down
    But it tastes just too old to be good anymore.”
    …I like the way you use imagery to give a sense of development in the emotional undertones of the narrative and dialogue. I also love the way you use food imager in general.
    -“ eyes are magnified through glasses he bought for £7.50 at the library in Beckenham.”
    -“ All the flowers we said we’d press”
    -“ The scar on my chin and the blood on his old denim jacket”
    -“ Picking me up in boots for shoplifting when I was fourteen
    Paying for it all,” – So many statements, where showing me says so much. There is no need for any telling after this, I understand what you are saying and it is beautiful, and terrifying. A wonderful contrast of light and dark.
    -The word “caressed” feels weak. What about “coming back to your arms cross with your grey fleece.” Again, where every you can, try and use less words to say the same thing.
    -I actually love the ending. The way you zoom into such a concrete image. I am not sure about “That’s all you need”, it seems a bit clichéd in contrast with the detail of the rest of the poem. Could you give me an image or an action that represents that sentiment instead?

    -How did you start writing this?
    -How finished is this to you?
    -What is the chronology in this poem? Going from now, to November, to Burger king (somewhere in the past). You are jumping around a lot… maybe try cutting this up into sections of time and playing with the order?
    -How did you feel about my suggestion last week – changing the whole think to I and You?
    “I fathered another child” you said,
    “She’s 25, been deprived of a father.”
    I ask, “Making it even harder for you to accept?”
    You told me you couldn’t handler her mother’s madness.

    -I think the initial repetition is redundant. Starting with;
    “She sits beneath our king prawns, coconut rice and lime.
    The Virgin Mojito my brother would order.
    -I have also slightly changed the order of the words and the punctuation to make it flow smoother. Read your work aloud, plainly, like a reader would, and see what rhythm will sound the nicest to someone not hearing it through your lovely voice. I am not sure how clear this explanation is, so poke me if you need, I think this process is a lot easier to explain in person.
    -Some redundancies are slipping in here and there:
    ….“Right now” – by putting things in the present tense you are already showing the audience it is right now, you don’t need to say it.
    …”I knew” because you are in the first person it is already inferred that you know.
    …”Was going to” – “would”  Why use three words when you could use one? I know this is an editing thing, and if anything these kinds of things need to be in a first draft, because if you think about them when you are writing initially it will stop the emotion and the good stuff coming out. But when you feel all the emotion is on the page, then it’s the time to start gaining control over the text and the situation and making it as concise as possible.
    -I also think you should look at all of your verbs in this poem, how have you chosen them? For example, the verb “Sits” used in the line above feels very bland, put the word in a thesaurus, is there a better one with a stronger charge you could use?
    -I think using a structure could really help you refine the content of this poem. Why not try writing the whole thing in 6 line Stanzas, making sure all the lines are roughly 10-14 syllables? Or roughly the same length is syllables feels like too much.
    -Abstract nouns; deprived? How was she deprived? Was she never taken to Burger King? Did she have no one’s drink order to memorise? The weak rhyme really draws attention to the blandness of this word in such an important moment in the poem.

    I hope this is helpful! Let me know what is and isn’t – I want to utilise my time supporting you so I can be a better Teacher and support with your writing!

  3. holtian2014 December 19, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    my eyes are magnified by the tears that well from the gutted pain and the unspeakable loss

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