Jackie Kay

Her (for E.M)

I had been told about her.
How she would always, always.
How she would never, never.
I’d watched and listened
but I still fell for her,
how she always, always.
How she never, never.

In the small brave night,
her lips, butterfly moments.
I tried to catch her and she laughed
a loud laugh that cracked me in two,
but then I had been told about her,
how she would always, always.
How she would never, never

We two listened to the wind.
We two galloped a pace.
We two, up and away, away, away.
And now she’s gone,
like she said she would go.
But then I had been told about her –
how she would always, always.


When your mother says ‘I don’t believe you,’
And you know you are lying, what do you do?
Do you collapse in tears, own up, admit the truth,
or do you hang on, gritted teeth, insist, protest
until finally you convince yourself:
you are honest, truthful and true
angry to be wrongfully accused,
this was what happened ,right, on that day.
Your own eyes stare through yourself, stony, cold.
Only the bones of the lies are lonely getting old.

Your mother wants to believe you, she does,
she will go some distance to make your lies true
she will make up excuses and reasons until
finally she convinces herself you didn’t mean this,
you meant that, you didn’t go there, you went here.
She will ache to believe you, her fine handsome boy.
She will rush round the house finding reasons.
Underneath a small worry will worm its way 
into her heart as the early evening sky flushes pink
she will stop for a second, think, go over it again.

By the time you are a big man,
with many lies behind your belt,
it will be too late, sssshh, too late, sssshh darling.



Jackie Kay is a poet and fiction writer who grew up in Glasgow, Scotland and now lives in Manchester, U.K. Her first book of poetry was The Adoption Papers (1991), which won the Saltire and Forward prizes. She has written two other poetry collections for adults, Other Lovers(1993) and Off Colour (1998), as well as numerous collections for children. Her fiction includes Trumpet (1998), which won the Author’s Club first novel award and the 1988 Guardian Fiction award, and a recent book of short stories, Why Don’t You Stop Talking (2002).