He gets the man to machete the sugar cane into pieces
then pass it through the car window,
and she says, it doesn't look sweet,
so he tells her
strip it with your teeth.
She watches as he peels the brown and green,
revealing sticky sinews.
This one's ripe, he says,
now you try.
The cane is hard, her teeth sink in
but nothing moves.
Here, take mine, he says
and they swap.
She is watching his white, even teeth, the way
his tongue flicks between his lips,
the way he doesn't care
that his chin and neck are glistening.
There is a sweet darkness spreading down
the blue of his shirt and she says
you're a messy eater,
so he tells her
look at your own top, missy,
on the day that she learns how to strip.
Fiona Ritchie Walker is originally from Montrose, Angus but has lived in NE England since the early 1990s. As well as her Diamond Twig collection, Lip Reading, her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies.
This poem is one of a number on the subject of sugar, commissioned by Diamond Twig to celebrate the launching of Ann O'Neill's collection The Sugar Factory. Our photograph (right) shows Fiona reading the poem at the launch event on 13 May 2004. She received the email commissioning the poem when she was in Malawi for her employer, Traidcraft, visiting sugar farmers whose product Traidcraft buys at a fair trade price. She wrote about the experience in her entry in the Diamond Twig authors' diaries.
Strip has now been published in Fiona's second collection, Garibaldi's Legs (Iron Press).
Follow the link for a list of other Poems of the Month.
Strip © 2004 Fiona Ritchie Walker: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.
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This page last updated 28th June 2005