I look through the kitchen door
into a scullery. I've been there before.
Time scarred walls in a cold out-house,
where casein painted walls blister
into sepia lines brushed through
a requisitioned cream and green existence.
I hear the whoomph of the gas being lit,
making steam as the stream
of hot water hits the sides
of the deep ceramic sink.
Cheaper to fill than the tin bath,
and him clean as a wink in no time.
A soft gas light glows through
from the kitchen, I taste smoke in air
warmed by clinkers from the old black range.
Using the softest of the kitchen cloths
she rubs him down,
rinses away grated soap suds.
His spindled legs are held tense
until the water warms them.
He stands firm, right hand grasping her pinny,
his left held away from his body to balance,
fist clenched to concentrate
on the new perspective, being so high.
She finds the warmed towel, to wrap this scrap,
her little man, holds him close to her body.
Born outside Durham at the outbreak of war, Jo Reed came to poetry rather late in life, and writes nowadays in Scarborough. Her recent printmaking and writing has focussed on her formative years spent in Soho in the Sixties, an extraordinary and dynamic decade, that she is exploring in a series of drawings, collages, poetry pamphlets and artists books.
A first collection of poetry Stone Venus, was published by Valley Press in 2011, a second, Life Class, is due to arrive this summer.
Readings from St Anne's Parish ( A Soho Sequence) have been performed recently in Hull, Newcastle, and Edinburgh, and she has been invited to read in St. Anne's Parish Church in Soho this May. Beloved, the second part of the Sequence, is devoted to some of the doughty women she encountered in Soho, and is to be launched as part of the Lit-fest Fringe Scarborough Flare this April, preceded by an exhibition of drawings Beloved in Bohemia at Helen Birmingham's Studio Gallery in Scarborough.
Kitchen Sink Painting is a response to Jack Smith's painting Mother Bathing Child exhibited in the Laing Gallery last year. It was painted in 1953. Jo says: "It had quite a profound affect on me as I distinctly remember being bathed in such a way when we lived in a row of tiny cottages in Framwellgate Moor (the sort with the outside loo and a coal shed), near where my Granny was publican of 'The Traveller's Rest'. I think my father 'acquired' the green and cream paint from whichever RAF station he was posted to at the time... he has never read the poem."
Jo's previous Poem of the Month is Bonds.
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
Kitchen Sink Painting © 2014 Jo Reed: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.