With a Sunflower on Her Head
How do you stay happy?
Wear a sunflower on your head.
The rent is overdue and you can’t earn enough to put Becky in nursery
Is that so bad when you love your child?
When you wear a sunflower on your head.
Spare a coin?
Sally parks the buggy, looks in her purse.
Ninety pence – she gives fifty and smiles
With a sunflower on her head.
Bubble blowers on the market stall.
One for Becky – forty pee - empty purse.
Tins in cupboard – baked beans – chicken casserole for babies and baked beans.
Becky eats up. Becky laughs.
Time to play – mother and child.
Look, says Sally, with a sunflower on her head.
Holds up blower – Becky waits, feels her toes.
Dip the wand – hold it up – lips pouting, blow.
Becky stares in wonder.
Cheeks redden – nose too – joy.
Bubbles floating, rainbows – another and another.
Becky laughs – she shouts.
Keep on blowing, with a sunflower on your head.
Bubbles rising – out the window, in the sunlight gleaming.
Wave the wand, more and more – bubbles streaming.
Eye to eye – more and more.
Mother and child – love beaming.
Out the window, upwards, onwards, in the sunlight gleaming.
Over cobbles, broken bins and weeds.
Drainpipe leaning from the wall.
Bubbles skipping up the roof slates.
Patched with missing corners – chimney.
Rainbows, in the sunlight gleaming.
Above the motors, Audi, Honda, reflected in the tiny spheres.
Wishes wafted by the breeze.
Drifting high above the trees.
In the park, a boy spins round.
Sees the same view coming,
Climbing frames and metal slides.
A chain of bubbles drifting - through the rubber hanging tyres.
Kevin runs to see them closer.
Follows past the skateboard slopes.
Between the bars of the high railings.
Going where he cannot pass.
Bubbles, in the sunlight gleaming.
Round he goes, by the gate.
Suddenly a gust – a billowing cloud.
Bubbles flying up the hillside.
Kevin climbs the tufted grassland, seeking.
Is this a bubble? Is this a wish?
Heat from the sun warms them.
Pop go the bubbles – what of the wish?
Kevin sitting in the grass – bends a twig.
Pokes it through the blades, exploring.
Spots a bottle, in the sunlight gleaming.
Standing up, he sees more.
Plastic bottles strewn about - fresh spring water on the hillside.
Returning from his bedroom, Kevin brings his red, red box.
Emptied of his train set, emptied of Tyrannosaurus rex.
Up the hill he climbs again, seeking bottles clean and bright.
One by one, fills his container.
Making Britain so much tidier.
Gathering up those wishes too.
Kevin carries like a man.
Clears the rubbish – clears the hillside.
Looks for a skip to put them in.
On the corner, he meets Sally, with a sunflower on her head.
Becky sees the red and shouts with glee.
Impulsive, Kevin blurts out ‘All for you.’
Cheeks redden, nose too – awkward.
‘Red, red’ says Becky, words for free.
Sally melts her frown.
Be happy, with a sunflower on her head.
See the funny side of things.
‘Why, thank you! ’
Now all she needs is find a use.
‘But that box is yours.’
Kevin bears it to her door.
Empties it upon her floor.
Parting, he smiles, box empty.
A piece of heart is in his hand.
On the carpet, set up skittles.
Hand to Becky a foam ball.
Becky throws, she likes the game.
Mostly she misses.
Once in a while a promise falls.
Down goes Vittel, down Highland Spring.
Sally stands them up again.
Becky’s arm lifts, tiny fingers stretch.
The ball flies – again the score is one.
‘Up’ she shouts, delighted.
Sally sees a number, reads the label.
Soon the time for bed has come.
‘Book’ a story.
Travel to another world.
Turn the pages, Becky’s eyes wide.
Mother and child, love speaking.
Bubbles upward, out the window, in the sunlight gleaming.
Now a wish and now a number.
On the shelf a little tin.
Appropriate source for borrow.
Place the coins beside the bottle.
Becky stirs, put on her coat.
Push the buggy to the phonebox, with a sunflower on your head.
Make the call, chance the offchance.
Odds of umpteen thousand, million, trillion.
Enter draw, and win, win, win!
Reads out the number.
Wait a mo.
Asked to read it out again.
Hands shaking, Sally does so.
Follows it with her address.
And steps out the box with sunshine on her head.
She’s won, she’s won, she’s won!
‘Big ship’ she says.
‘Ship’ shouts Becky, waves an arm.
Small white clouds drift from a mountain.
Far across the wide blue water.
Steamer passes, paddles turning.
Sally raises the bottle, wine not water.
Pours out a glass to take a drink.
With a sunflower on her head.
‘Everything all right for you’ he says.
His name is Arnauld.
Check out the flat returned to.
Never sees a view of Lake Geneva.
Never sees a view at all.
Pale blue paint, emulsion.
Make it better, make it cheerful.
Must do something with it soon.
Cheeks redden, nose as well.
Becky sees the clouds above the water.
Puffs of white above the blue.
‘Bubbles. Make more bubbles’ she demands.
Sally laughs and looks at Arnauld.
Eyes meet – attraction.
‘When you’re ready’ he says.
And to the Royal Spa they go,
Coach-built pram for child provided,
Like a royal personage.
Leaving the restaurant, bill settled.
To enjoy health treatment, all for free.
Bubble baths and foaming waters.
Such relaxation! Such luxury!
And such promises made.
A new woman? No.
One thing there’d always be.
A sunflower on her head.
Then at last there comes the leaving.
Past the Cachet Spring.
One last drink before the flight.
And home they go.
Kevin comes again, box brimming.
‘No more bottles’ sighs Sally, cheeks turning red.
The boy is downcast.
‘Take one more, another wish.’
Sally relents – her hand is delving.
‘This one’ she says – Evian, Evian-les-Bains.
Kevin smiles, his job well done.
Walks tall to the supermarket – to the plastics disposal bin.
Bottle in hand, Sally watches for the postman.
Knitting his way along the street.
Knit one, drop one, knit one, needles in his bag.
Sally takes the held out postcard.
Matches to her other hand.
The Water Gardens.
Turns it over. Reads the message.
‘May I come to see you? ’ Arnauld asks.
She goes inside. Admires the ‘view’.
Wild flowers in a jam jar by the window.
Beneath the sink, bleach and Stardrops.
Force of habit – not ashamed.
Sally sings as she works.
Looks down on Becky in her cot.
Mother to child.
Love like steel.
‘Arnauld’s coming’ she whispers.
Dreams a new dream.
Blushing brightly, and with a sunflower on her head.
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Poet's Notes about The Poem
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