Agnes Marton: a poem



Stepdaughter

He taught me how to ride a bike

without training wheels.

First, how to brake, then how to glide,

and nothing in-between.

No pads, no helmet,

only his lap to land on, his hurray,

his you make me proud.

I gave my drawings for him to exhibit,

not on the fridge but on the inner wall

of his bathroom cabinet:

of gladiators drinking vinegar and ash,

of the dog Laika orbiting the Earth,

of orphan sharks sharpening their teeth.

He was the One and Only.

I introduced him to my imaginary friend,

Rebus, the hungry goldfish

who celebrated his birthday every day.

They got along, two tricksters

keen on their audience.

When mum was out, we played hide-and-seek

on the unmade bed.

I remember the warmth, the tickling,

the contests: who can unwrap sooner,

get rid of clothes and sink into the tired sheets.

He was my precious secret.

Whatever I had shared before

disappeared, and the traces became

everybody else's. He wasn't anybody else's,

not even mum's.

I did lose sight of him, though. You know

his name from the news: Ted Bundy.

You don't know mine, silly Sally. But I was his,

now persona non data.

He would play me like a ball so high,

I would look down and find my cherry-sloven face

there in my mum's gaunt face, beautiful,

void of guilt, valued,

but not the way turkey leather is valued.

Cherished. Alive.


Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet, writer, librettist, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (UK) and Reviews Editor at The Ofi Press. Recent publications include her collection Captain Fly's Bucket List and four chapbooks with Moria Books (USA). She won the National Poetry Day Competition in the UK.