Ken Champion

Usherettes

Some serve in a churchlike Athens Odeon, an act of observance
and Greek dubbing, others in Sao Paulo’s Una Banco pimping
ice cream while waiters tout margaritas, and a Tangier picture
palace where the audience shouts look behind you! to the hero

comfort refugees in a shell-pocked art house in Beirut, watch
contraband movies in an Art Deco theater amongst Havana
palms, fight off the manager of a Roxy in Taiwan.

They’ve heard the roar of light hit the screen, ping of a bra
strap from the back row, watched a lit match passed like
an Olympic flame across red velvet seats, cigarette smoke
floating into bas-reliefs and chevrons; torch beams gliding
over carpets they are ciphers guiding us into the lit city,
the mansion, bedrooms, bars.

There’s one now, next to my aisle seat, raised knee flicking
off a shoe, leaning back on the curtained wall, unlit torch
idly hanging, the world at 24 frames a second in her eyes.

Street Games

Flinging the ball at the pennies - tanners if you’re flush -
on the paving slab against the end house wall, and mum
shouting down the street for your tea, and you run past

the parlour to the kitchen, stir the washing in the boiler
with the bleached broom handle while she salts greens,
squeal of fork inside a saucepan, hand brushing a brow;

and you want to run to the park through the sandpit,
round the bandstand, on to the Flats, jump the stream
between houses, lean on a fluted lamppost and sate

yourself on mind flicks of skinny Iris at number two
or the misty silken space inside the thighs of principal
boys your dad takes you to see at Lyceum pantos,

but knowing you’re going out to the coins again
that no-one ever seems to hit.

Ken Champion © 2011

Victorian Whimsy

The picket fence, moss on the cracked
path, faded red door beckoning me in
to a window seat, to look out on the lock

and clip gate, terracotta tiles in the
bricks of the short terrace, the chipped
enamel Bovril past the church finials;

to scrape up the benign moss with
firm hands, to lie in it,
contented, still.

Chimneys

Their London stocks, lipped pots against
a yellow-grey sky, slate roofs, childhood;
as if looking across from the slag heap

to terraced streets, lamplights, Alma Arms -
dad coming out to bribe you with a penny
arrowroot, if you was the only gel in the world

aunts with flappers hair, who’s a pretty boy?
mum’s don’t look, son, as Joan from next door
breastfeeds her baby, the crush on Wendy

from over the road, fear at seeing her
parents kiss because yours don’t, the
Gothic psychiatry, the lost marriages;

and it’s spinning around like a reeling
carousel, my slag heap turning
into a hill of beans.

Ken Champion © 2011