This morning Samantha is building a bonfire
Down on the waste ground in rubbish and weeds
Ferrying armloads of boxes and bin-bags
Burning a life that she no longer needs.
Out of the cardboard seep velvets and spangles,
Hairpieces, handcuffs, impractical shoes,
Skimpy silk underwear, ropes and brass bangles -
The tools of a trade that she’ll no longer use.
Crimson red lipstick, assorted cosmetics,
Uniforms, gymslips, black satin sheets,
Bank books and cheque cards, phallic prosthetics;
Telling a story of life on the streets.
As she begins to pour on the petrol
From a split in a box something catches her eye -
She snatches a pair of scarlet stilettos,
Strikes a match, turns away, bids Samantha goodbye.
She doesn’t looks back as the flames leap behind her
Two decades of shame spiral up in the air
Bound for a place where no-one will find her
The phone will keep ringing, Samantha’s not there.
Started at sixteen, homeless and broken,
A desperate measure in desperate times.
Rejection, abortion, hard words were spoken,
Sharing her love was the worst of her crimes.
Alone in a city where no-one would know her,
Holes in her pockets, a void in her soul,
She met a poor sister who told her she’d show her
Some tricks to earn cash that was better than dole.
So late one cold Saturday down by the station,
Washed by the jaundice of streetlamps and rain
She sacrificed pride for self-preservation
And with soft silent tears extinguished the pain.
It never got easy but her way of coping
Was to turn off her mind as she turned out the lights,
And drift away wishing and dreaming and hoping,
Erasing the memories of all those long nights.
Sometimes the bruising would show on her features -
Most of the deep ones were on the inside,
From Alans and Brians and Colins and Dereks,
From husbands who cheated and lovers who lied.
Good men and cad-men and bad men and dad-men
The sad men the mad men the giants and wimps.
All rented her flesh - after she took the money
In the land of the punters …
… and pushers
… and pimps.
Just before noon Jane is catching a ferry,
She stands on the deck in the rain as it leaves.
No one could tell if she’s crying or smiling.
A woman rejoicing - or a young girl who grieves?
Her hair is much darker, her shoulders much lighter,
She fixes her thoughts on the journey ahead,
On a world that seems bigger, a future that’s brighter,
On a tumbled-up farmhouse down by the Med.
Where the sun melts the dew from the herbs in the morning
And the scent of wild jasmine seeps under the door,
Where brown chickens peck in the shade of a fig tree
And the breeze brings a whisper of waves on the shore.
Dusk shadows fall as she drives from the harbour
And follows the lines on the map through the night,
Northwest is a midnight, dark in the mirror,
Southeast is an ocean and daybreak’s first light.
And every new mile is an old mile behind her
And one from the journey that stretches ahead,
And farther from places and names which remind her
Of a life that is ended, a girl who is dead.
She can taste the warm bread that she’ll bake in the mornings,
Smell lavender pressed between crisp cotton sheets,
Hear new words she’ll learn as she shops in the market,
Returning the smile of each person she meets.
She’ll read all those books that she never had time for,
Go to bed early and rise with the day,
Eat peaches and apricots, fresh from the garden -
Alone in her bed, from an old wooden tray.
Wear plain cotton dresses and go without make up
Go barefoot, keep kittens and ride an old bike,
Make new acquaintances, choose her friends carefully,
Turn into a person she might come to like.
Time passes quickly, journey’s end nearer,
Her dreams grow much closer with each passing mile
And the careworn expression she wore just last morning
Is replaced with a face that is learning to smile.
Just before dawn she reaches the village,
She drives up the lane that leads to her door
Steps from the car, turns a key, throws a light switch
Her tears of relief fall to dust on the floor.
In her hands she is cradling the shiny stilettos -
The very first things that she thinks to unpack,
And the face that smiles up from the scarlet reflection
Never look back,
Don’t ever look back.