Louise Peterkin 72

Louise Peterkin

I will tell my daughter’s daughters if you ever get the chance to corner a rat like Splete, don’t let it slip through your fingers like gizzards down the sink. Learn by rote his armoury: the guile, the charm, that disarming barrow boy frolic from foot to foot like a metronome. Blocked is it? Next thing I knew, he’d grabbed the plunger with the long pole, was singing a gutsy barcarole into the toilet. I’ll be honest, when Splete appeared everything came clear, focused. Even the frosted dog mess on the pavement looked nice and complicated like pomace through a bladder press. I shouldn’t be able to do this, he wiggled his finger between jamb and frame, no wonder you’re chilly. The flowers balked in the blast of his Tosca door slams, though, in hindsight, he did very little. He’d the knack – permeating every task with a gentle absorption, that crossed-legged thing men do, head tilted on one shoulder as if setting his watch by the talking clock. He smelled deeply of nothing: clean air and snow. I took him on a tour of the inherited home, embarrassed by its size and hand-me-down chintz. The empty, childless rooms. That month the DJ was a Northern Soul addict; almost every song made Splete leap up to execute an alarming ritual: part flight attendant, part exorcist, conducting with a stainless steel ruler the beats of The Snake, Seven Day Lover. Once, he crept behind me when I was washing dishes, negotiated his hand down my waistband (he smelled of dusk and November). I shattered into fragments, relishing the thought that for some hours he would wear a thimble of me. He smelled of the Blended Virginia Tobacco tin my mother used to keep word strips in to teach me to read. He smelled of the spent fuse of a firework, friable, giraffe tongue coloured, the scorched rim of the world when the farmers set their fields aglow. The day we met I blushed, asked what scent he was wearing, thinking if it’s called anything other than Inferno I don’t want to know.

Louise Peterkin is a poet living and working in Edinburgh. She has had poems published in many magazines and journals including The Dark Horse, Glasgow Review of Books, Magma, New Writing Scotland and The North. In 2016 I was a recipient of a New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust in the poetry Category. I am the co-editor along with Rob A. Mackenzie of Spark: Poetry and Art Inspired by the Novels of Muriel Spark (Blue Diode Press, 2018). My first poetry collection The Night Jar will be published by Salt in 2020.