Black Bullets and Vinegar

Catherine Graham

The wind, the wind, the wind blows high
In comes her sweetheart from the sky...

The old washing-line is a skipping-rope
for girls who giggle as the wind blows high.
Inside, a remedy for chestiness
stands in the oven, over the coal fire.
Black bullets and vinegar, brown sugar
to sweeten: a linctus to be swallowed
like lies.The aftertaste hangs in my mouth;
lingers on my tongue like grief, bittersweet.

I return the photograph to the tin
and whisper low for only her to hear.
Make me a cure, Grandma, to take away
this pain: make me a girl again. I'll take
any remedy. Leave it in the press,
your magic cupboard with frosted-glass doors.

Catherine Graham

Catherine Graham is winner of the Northern Voices Poetry Award 2008. She was winner of the Northumberland Writers' Special Award last year for most promising poet. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including a new Tyneside/Irish anthology, Two Rivers Meet (Revival Press, Ireland and Northern Voices).

Catherine says she takes lots of inspiration from her experiences of growing up in Newcastle. "Black Bullets and Vinegar came to me after being offered a black bullet by a friend... I hadn't seen those sweets in years but the taste and smell of my Grandma's remedy came flooding back."

For an update from Catherine, see her later Poems of the Month: England, Making Clogs at Gallowgate and Last Waltz.

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Black Bullets and Vinegar © 2008 Catherine Graham: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.