Poetry International Poetry International
Poem

John McCullough

GEORGIE, BELLADONNA, SID

GEORGIE, BELLADONNA, SID

GEORGIE, BELLADONNA, SID

Paper, scissors, stone. Grinning poster boys
for Winston’s bona home front, the flashing sky
pink as a boudoir. Sid’s craggy martinis thump

away with a powder puff to the gramophone
trills of ‘There’s a Small Hotel’. My eek hovers
above Lady B’s sink, bleach storming my scalp.

Open your aunt nells, dear. No beauty
without agony. Bitch. A zhooshy recruit,
I have plucked and plucked to prove devotion,

my fitness for trolling and jitterbugging
in prearranged gloom. Kohl, rouge, bronze lipstick.
Steadfast sisters, we camp like Fates on the periphery

of guest-houses where bonaroo forces are stationed,
B stitching sequins to maroon gloves by the light
of a tissue-papered torch. Sid bats ogle riahs

in ten minute spells. We’re the bang they want
to go out with, saintly omi-palones who fall
with a stroke of the Polish navy’s smooth serge.

Cackle is ruthless: weather, duties, family –
buvare at mine? My favourite’s a Yank.
Ed Paxton, his fluent hands unknotting the rope

of my body, loosening dreams that have never been,
will never again be freer. Between his legs
I’m the right shape, intrepid, all-seeing.

The horrors of peace are many. Street lamps slam on
beside cod snapping bunting, thrashed Union flags.
What’s wrong with your eyebrows? brother says.

I stare blankly back, incapable of irony,
laughter. Sid moves to Orkney – Bless her
Chatsworth Road heart
– has five dolly feeles.

Belladonna signs up for the merchant navy.
She screeves, praising bijou striped curtains,
black sailors, the Atlantic’s sharp smell


though I do not reply. I linger here, still paper
but folding, folding. The streets swarm with mammoth
skirts, decency, bedsits. I’ve used the last smudge

of American shampoo. Each dusk I vada
the ripped-open, scattered rose sky and pray
to God for the safe return of my blackout.
Close

GEORGIE, BELLADONNA, SID

Paper, scissors, stone. Grinning poster boys
for Winston’s bona home front, the flashing sky
pink as a boudoir. Sid’s craggy martinis thump

away with a powder puff to the gramophone
trills of ‘There’s a Small Hotel’. My eek hovers
above Lady B’s sink, bleach storming my scalp.

Open your aunt nells, dear. No beauty
without agony. Bitch. A zhooshy recruit,
I have plucked and plucked to prove devotion,

my fitness for trolling and jitterbugging
in prearranged gloom. Kohl, rouge, bronze lipstick.
Steadfast sisters, we camp like Fates on the periphery

of guest-houses where bonaroo forces are stationed,
B stitching sequins to maroon gloves by the light
of a tissue-papered torch. Sid bats ogle riahs

in ten minute spells. We’re the bang they want
to go out with, saintly omi-palones who fall
with a stroke of the Polish navy’s smooth serge.

Cackle is ruthless: weather, duties, family –
buvare at mine? My favourite’s a Yank.
Ed Paxton, his fluent hands unknotting the rope

of my body, loosening dreams that have never been,
will never again be freer. Between his legs
I’m the right shape, intrepid, all-seeing.

The horrors of peace are many. Street lamps slam on
beside cod snapping bunting, thrashed Union flags.
What’s wrong with your eyebrows? brother says.

I stare blankly back, incapable of irony,
laughter. Sid moves to Orkney – Bless her
Chatsworth Road heart
– has five dolly feeles.

Belladonna signs up for the merchant navy.
She screeves, praising bijou striped curtains,
black sailors, the Atlantic’s sharp smell


though I do not reply. I linger here, still paper
but folding, folding. The streets swarm with mammoth
skirts, decency, bedsits. I’ve used the last smudge

of American shampoo. Each dusk I vada
the ripped-open, scattered rose sky and pray
to God for the safe return of my blackout.

GEORGIE, BELLADONNA, SID

Sponsors
Gemeente Rotterdam
Nederlands Letterenfonds
Stichting Van Beuningen Peterich-fonds
Ludo Pieters Gastschrijver Fonds
Hendrik Muller fonds
Lira fonds
J.E. Jurriaanse
Literature Translation Institute of Korea
Partners
LantarenVenster – Verhalenhuis Belvédère