Copper, Silver, Gold
Books can change your life. For me it was Steinbeck, a blend of Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat. Something from Steinbeck’s mind connected with mine and: kapow! I mutated into something new. He showed me the joy of the human spirit. I knew it was real and that was how I wanted my life to be.
‘’Such a shame, such a clever girl.”
Yes I was. I saw through the bullshit.
“Pass this exam, that exam and you will be equipped to make choices.”
Yeah, yeah. So I could read all the books and see all the ways to be, but I’d found my way at thirteen.
“I will never accept your mealy-mouthed interpretation of what life should be.”
Yes, I was a brat, but that’s part of the process; reject everything you have known to find the person you really are.
My road through life would be a literal road. No one place to call home, my home would be in the hearts of those, who, like me, had fallen between the cracks. All life is down here in the cracks, oh yes, believe me.
I was 16 when the sweetness of the drugs showed me even better who I could be.
Home was wherever I found that warmth creeping up on me, taking me to sweet, sweet paradise.
Family was everywhere and everyone.
I was Clarice, the girl with the radiant smile, tiny Clarice, with the golden curls and smart mouth and quick wit.
Everyone loved Clarice. Didn’t they?
The law weren’t too keen, I was a regular. But they always had a twinkle for me, had a laugh between the stern words.
Hard to say when things got darker.
I had never been worried about money or finding a roof to shelter under, I had friends everywhere; and then I didn’t.
Not easy to be a woman on the streets. You have to get a nose for kindness, sniff it out; it’s the mainline to survival. You need sharp eyes too, you have to look out for opportunities.
Forget the rich. Oh they might shove a fiver your way, but you can bet they’ll want something for it. No, it’s the poor you can rely on. They look at you and know that one more slip and they could be on the pavement next to you. They know only too well that kindness is a precious commodity, but give some kindness and you might get some back when you need it.
They’re quick to forgive too, not surprised when you let them down. So you helped yourself to their last fag. So you swiped those small towers of carefully counted coppers on the mantelpiece, all lined up for the children in the morning.
It’s like Cannery Row, between the cracks, everyone squeezed up together, making the best of things, helping each other out.
Quicksilver, that’s me. I change shape to fit the situation. Warm me up, I’ll turn to liquid and slip away. Grind me down, I’ll turn to stone.
I was on the telly once, never seen it, but you might have. A documentary about Holloway. They didn’t talk to me but they filmed me. Said I smiled too much. They might have cut me out.
Prison, street, hospital, street, prison. That’s the usual sequence, but mix them up in any order, it’s all the same.
Blurry moments, silver flashes: handcuff, needle, knife.
I like to sit in churches for a bit of quiet. I like the stories in the windows. Look like they’ve been broken and stuck together again, but they’re still beautiful.
We married in beer.
I had a brown bread baby.
Put him in a shoe box and buried him at midnight.
My heart cracked and all the gold leaked out.
Then I did it properly.
Went to the doctor. Did the right things.
My heart filled up with gold as the baby grew.
When she was born she looked me in the eyes and we knew each other.
She’s long gone now, they took her away, took away her name.
I kept a tiny piece of gold though; hid it behind my soul.