Friday, 9 October 2020

My Dead Friend, Jessie

by Natascha Graham

Jessie had what I didn’t have
And most wanted
She had five brothers and sisters
And curly hair
Where we were both
She was the bolshy, kick-ass superhero
And I was the daydreaming book nerd

We used to hide in homemade dens
With books and read
In the dappled sunshine between leaves
We used to run as fast as we could
On the green behind our houses
We used to count bees and wasps
And tell stories about stinging caterpillars
And killer ants

We took trips in the boot of her parents’ van
Lying, squashed and sticky, tan skin on tan skin
side by side on flat hot black metal
Sucking Coca Cola lollipops and
Laughing in hisses and snorts and whispers
And sticking our legs and bare feet up so they’d show out of the back window
And her mum would yell for us to stop

We poked jellyfish with old grey bulrush stalks
At Shingle Street,
where the sky was as flat and blue as the sea
And the water stretched too far to see
And we ran with my wrist in her hand
Through miles of water only up to our knees
Around flat stoney islands
Where we sat in the sunlight, with the shells and broken off crab claws
With wet hair in our faces and
legs outstretched
All brown and flecked with sun-bleached hair
Toes sparkly and crusted with sand and salt
Sharing secrets and stories until the sky turned pink and orange and gold

We sat on the grass outside our houses
And watched Joe Pimble turn his eyelids inside out while he stood on the kerb
Jealous that we had dug a hole in the ground
With a smuggled out spade
And found a box of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
All covered in dirt
And we hung them from trees
By their necks
From where he could see,
But not touch

She called my mum and dad
Mum and dad
And we sat on the kitchen worktop
Whilst my mum made hot dogs and chocolate crunch
And we stuck wet fingers into the packet of rainbow sugar
Sucked them clean
And poured out a bag on sunflower hearts
And raced each other to eat them with chopsticks

Jessie did everything I wished I could do
She shouted at boys
I ignored them
And she climbed trees higher than I ever could
But always reached down to pull me higher
And she came up with plans and dares and tricks
That made me feel smug and proud and fearless
Because she was my friend, Jessie.

* * * * *

Raised simultaneously by David Bowie and Virginia Woolf, Natascha Graham is a fiction writer, artist, and screenwriter who lives with her wife in a house full of sunshine on the east coast of England. Her work has been previously published in Acumen, Litro, Flash Fiction Magazine, The Gay and Lesbian Review, Yahoo News and The Mighty.

1 comment:

  1. I've never tried to turn my eyelids inside out, but now I'm inside this poem.