Hearts and Flowers


Hearts and Flowers

                   - I -

Look at the crazy little bugger!
All spiffed up in his best britches:
Emerald moleskins; velvet textured
And, I swear, two sizes too tight.
Fresh scrubbed face pink and glowing,
Redolent with spicy aftershave.
Nervous finger worrying his shirt collar --
Shit, he never could manage
To properly knot a tie.
        "C'mere, you clumsy oaf."

"Knew you'd come through for me, mate."
Green eyes beam affectionate gratitude.
A man could drown
In such depthless pools,
Or maybe float to heaven...
I quickly glance away,
Complete my task,
And pat his auburn curls

"Sod you, Bodie," he grins,
Collecting jacket, candy, card,
Stuffed toys and flowers.
I crook an evil-minded brow.
"Tsk-tsk, Raymond, old son,
Is that how you get the birds to like you?
Stooping to bribery, now? For shame."
"Sod you," he repeats. A chipper wink,
        And off he goes...

                Celebration bound.
                        Innocence undaunted
                                By the passing of the years.

Alone, again, I stare at my slammed door.
Hearts and flowers. Valentines.
Cupid's arrows fill the air...
It is the day to speak of love
And lovers, dreams and desires,
Promises impossible to keep,
Vows unlikely to be broken,
Cards sticky-sweet with words
        I cannot -- dare not -- voice.

Hearts, to my way of thinking,
Are muscles pumping blood;
The red spill of life's fluid
Paints the colour of the day.
Flowers are the lilies clasped
In corpses' folded hands,
Or posies strewn about a coffin
Closed for propriety's sake
        On less-than-human remains.

                Hearts and flowers. Death and destruction
                        I don't believe in love...
                                I love you, Ray.

                    - II -

"Hold on, hold on, I'm coming!"
Jesus Christ, what harebrained twit
Is up and out this time of night?
Oh, Lord, I might have known...
"Ray, Ray, you confounded nuisance,
Don't you know it's after three?"
Stupid question, that.
He's so pissed, he probably
        Doesn't know his name.

Look at the poor little bugger:
Dust and grime coating wrinkled trousers;
Perfectly knotted tie banded 'round his head
Like a flippin' Indian brave;
Chocolate kiss-prints staining
Lips and neck and satin shirt;
Jacket reeking of cheap wine... and ravioli?
" 'appy, 'appy Val'tine's Day!"
        He crows triumphantly.

"You silly ass, that was yesterday."
Enormous, owlish eyes blink in dismay.
"S'over, then?" he hiccups. "M'too late?"
A glint of tears: one priceless gem
Tumbles down a flushed cheek.
"Too late for what, you drunken sot?
Get in here! What'll the neighbours think?"
Snuffling noisily, stance excessively dignified,
        He steps inside.

                Presses a single, somewhat wilted,
                        Long-stemmed, blood-red rose
                                Into my hand.

"What's this?" Crumbs from the table?
Pity for a mate who's feeling low?
"Kids ate all th' blinkin' candy.
Then th' rotten li'l beggars tied an' gagged me,
Tucked me in a closet... I fell asleep
Waitin' for 'em to turn me loose.
Was nearly one 'fore Cathy found me."
"Kids, gags, closets -- dammit, Doyle,
What kind of a kinky date
        Were you out on?"

"M'family gave me bloody 'ell
For headin' back here tonight.
Thought Mum'd call a copper on me
For drivin' in this state.
Still... hadda risk it, Bodie.
Couldn't leave me own true love
All on 'is lonesome, could I?
Not on Valley -- Valley -- Valley-hoo-ha day!
Aw, c'mon, give us a kiss.
Take me to bed, sunshine.
Then you just wait till I sober up,
        You sexy, half-Irish bastard!"

                Hearts and flowers. Valentines.
                        It is the day to speak of love
                                And lovers, dreams and desires...


Originally published in Mobile Ghetto 2, Darien Duck & Phoebe Entwhistle, 1987

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