Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Accidents in the Home

Don't swing on your chair
or you'll fall into a rice pudding!

This is the story.
A vast dish cools
on sand-scrubbed stones,

Sunday chicken stretched
to ten, Megan calls
I want the left leg! then

leans back, slips, falls -
a panicked arc.
Pudding boils
on milky skin and frantic screams

before the dark claims her.
Three days she lies       
- teetering.

Scalds caught her neck,
a scarlet scarf squeezing breath;
burnt arm, back, breast - a puckered
vest of carelessness. A lapse

that leaves undressing for the bathroom,
days spent on beaches fully clad,
a softness
under that hard, scarred skin.


  1. A timely reminder of that fine line we constantly tread, never fully knowing the consequences of falling one side or the other.

  2. I want to laugh but I'm afraid to, in case this is true. But I'm shamed by my almost-laughter, because even if it ISN'T true, it COULD be true for somebody, somewhere, even if it isn't someone you love to distraction. And it would be awful to laugh at anybody's misfortune. Or so I was taught.
    So I'll play it safe, click 'Hmmm' and just snuffle into my hand.

  3. @ Martin - I didn't think of that, but shall now pretend I did.

    @ Deborah - I agree totally. It's a laugh/cringe poem. My mother would always say 'Don't swing on your chair or you'll fall into a rice pudding' and we accepted that as normal warning - although it didn't stop us swinging on our chairs - despite the fact that no rice pudding was cooling on the flagstones behind us.

    But she warned us of this because HER mother had fallen into a rice pudding (all true!) and my grandmother had dreadful scalds all down her arms, neck and chest and had been in a coma for three days.

    Again, you couldn't make it up!

    (But you are not to feel bad about laughing because that's the point of the poem; it makes people uncomfortable.)

  4. I remember you reading this out at an event a few years ago and thinking it was going to be funny, then being horrified.

  5. I'm glad you explained it, Moptop. The 3-day teetering was what really sobered me, and the puckered breast, so I'm relieved that I didn't actually laugh. (Or snuffle, either. That was just me being lame.)

    Very interesting though, because of course what I've come to expect of you is hilarity, making you one-dimensional, but of course you're not. You've also made me think because of saying the point of the poem is to make people uncomfortable (and damn, you succeeded) - it's much more complex that I initially thought, and quite fascinating because of it.

  6. and on top of all that, it's a very good poem!