The week before last I went along to Homebaked beside Anfield, to the first of a short run of a poetry group headed up by local writer Ged Thompson. I’ve always been averse to calling anything I write “poetry”. I don’t feel worthy. I dunno. I never paid attention at school, never learned or committed to memory any rules. I could DO words and pictures. I just could. Nobody could teach me. I’m not saying I’m better than anyone else, I just do it my way. Anyway, the first week I fell asleep in the afternoon before the group met at 7pm, woke up with 15 minutes to spare and made it just in time, with only enough time to grab the copy of ‘Gruts’ by Ivor Cutler which I keep beside the living room door. I read ‘Gruts‘ and ‘The Bezerk Leg‘ in my best Cutler impression. It went down well. But I promised to write something myself for the following week. Ged put the idea in my head to write something about my daughter.

I jotted down two pieces the night before. The first one, even I think… well… it’s a poem. See what you think.

It’s loosely, tongue-in-cheekily, entitled Freedom (issues with authority)

I don’t like to rhyme
And when I colour-in
I don’t always stay in the lines
My daughter and I do it on purpose sometimes
Criss-cross around and over the lines

Draw our own pictures
Have a good time
There aren’t any rules
And that’s not a crime

The second piece is longer and, perhaps, a little more hard-hitting. It’s called The Queen of Liverpool.

Along the cracked and stained pavements of County Road we promenade
Off to carouse the aisles of B&M or grab daddy and daughter-ccinos at the cafe
Me and my fairy princess unicorn
We’re the best of friends
“What makes you happy, darling?”
“Hugs, Dad!”

What I’d give for one of her spaghetti arms squeezes right now
Not seen her in weeks and still a week to go ’til our latest adventure
I’ll always resent being a part-time daddy
It’s the greatest act of of cruelty anyone has ever bestowed upon me
But what time we have together. Well.
We have a ball!

Two of us playing ponies
Painting pictures
On the floor

She loves The Beatles
Even if silly John Lemon says “Girls don’t play guitars!”
He was only kidding
Girls can do anything they like

Where to now, Toodles?”
“Stanley Park, Dad!”
Good ol’ Stanley!
Swan food!
Mr and Mrs Waddle!
Twilight Sparkle’s palace!
And, if we’re lucky, the ice-cream van!

“Liverpool’s amazing, Daddy!”
(She slings Swiftwind the scooter to the ground and raises her arms in the air)
“I’m the Queen of Liverpool!”

Three hundred and twenty five miles door to door
Her and mummy in the Highland home that came with the job that nearly killed me
I was thrown out a year later. The love of my life gave up on me. What vows?
Mental hospital within hours, or… who knows where
No longer a happily family under one roof

I very nearly gave up on me
A very real black hole I knew of called out loud and clear
It would have been very easy to slide into the icy water and slip away
No more colouring-in
No more laughing ’til we cry

Alone I cleared the house of my stuff
Like you do when someone’s died
Only it was me who’d died

Homeless. Jobless. Absolutely self-less. Off I went.
Right back to where it all began
North Liverpool. Walton. Home.
Small town Scotland couldn’t contain me
And it won’t contain her
I know it won’t

When she’s down, we hit the town
Take the Aldi by storm
There are no limits
The horizon is our own
Me and my fairy princess unicorn
The Queen of Liverpool

Jamie Yates, November 2019.

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