Yesterday saw us at the Admiral Benbow in Penzance for the launch of Katrina Naomi’s The Way the Crocodile Taught Me, and so this week’s Friday Poem is taken from this gorgeous new collection. If you missed Katrina in Penzance, you have another chance to hear her read on 17 May, when we will be at The Yorkshire Grey, London, for a second launch event. You can find the full details on our website.
The Way the Crocodile Taught Me is a heartfelt and tragi-comic portrayal of a fraught childhood and adolescence. Central to the book are two sequences: one about an awful stepfather, and the other about a kindly but also comically old-fashioned grandmother. A mother appears, distant, glamorous as a film star. An absent father is also a dream: “After my father left, I grew/ a battery of hearts,/ felt each of them beat,/ like doves in a casket/”. These family poems are both heartbreaking and often hilarious, sometimes both at once.
This is the image that sticks:
my married mother, her costume cut
low and high, one foot below
the impossible blue of a honeymoon pool,
the other poised on the metal step;
her face, fresh of make-up,
brows plucked in static surprise,
eyes wide with the rubber pull
of yellow dahlias, her new ring and bracelet.
A triumph. My mother emerging
from the water as I’d never seen her before.
Her head, a belisha beacon of hope.