DAY TWELVE – Ian Duhig

The Blue Queen of Ashtrayland

What the fuck’s the Holy Grail? — Molly in ‘Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew’

Her hair glows, burnished as the gold
that trims her Nike cardigan;
Ionian white her Fila trainers,
DKNY jeans and cap.

Her skin’s as blue as old skimmed milk;
as blue the star on her left cheek ―
a Borstal beauty spot, tattooed
with broken glass and laundry ink.

The downers downed, the brown all tooted,
the homegrown hydroponic skunk
all shotgunned, blown-back, jointed, bonged,
the Queen calls for her royal Swan.

Through snakebite piercings on her lips
the bitten red adaptor hissed
like Cleopatra’s asp its gas.
Our Queen jerks upright, claps her hands.

With no round table, they hand round
White Lightning in two-litre flasks.
She necks a draught then kicks her minstrel:
Skeeter fills the block with song,

“Bring me my Dig of burning gold,
Bring me Viagra of desire!
Bring me my foil: O, clouds unfold!
Bring me my Milligrams of Fire!”

Her knights take off to rob a dealer.
Urban’s passed out on his crate.
Peeling back a cardboard curtain,
their Queen looks down on her estate.


NOTE: The sixth verse quotes Skeeter’s song from Bernard Hare’s ‘Urban Grimshaw and The Shed Crew’ (Sceptre 2006), his account of a particularly-marginalised Leeds gang of school and social dropouts. “Ashtrayland” is Urban’s name in the book for an England whose history, politics and culture are remote from and irrelevant to the Shed Crew’s lives, a mirror-image of the views expressed by Conservative MP Mark Garnier, who in 2014 referred to “dog-end voters” living in “the outlying regions of Britain” with whom his party need not concern itself.

A former homelessness worker, Ian Duhig’s sixth and most recent book of poetry ‘Pandorama’ (Picador 2010) reflects his continuing interest in the subject with its sequence of elegies for David Oluwale. His Poetry School CAMPUS pamphlet ‘Interventions’ is out this summer and his next full collection, ‘The Blind Man’s Road’, forthcoming from Picador.


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