Biography of Caroline Bird
Caroline Bird (born 1986) is a British poet, playwright and author.
Bird was born in 1986. She grew up in Leeds and attended the Steiner School in York and the Lady Eleanor Holles School before moving to London in 2001. She studied English Literature at Oxford University and was president of the Oxford Poetry Society. She has given poetry readings at The Royal Festival Hall (with Elaine Feinstein), Latitude Festival, the Wellcome Collection (with Don Paterson), St Hilda's College, Oxford (with Wendy Cope), the Wordsworth Trust (with Gillian Allnutt), Cheltenham Festival (with Clare Pollard) and Ledbury Festival, amongst others. She is currently one of the writers-in-residence for the charity First Story.
Caroline Bird Poems
THOUGHTS INSIDE A HEAD INSIDE A KENNEL I...
I had become increasingly suspicious of those around me especially after an attempt was made to kidnap me and two masked soldiers raided my house while I hid in the grandfather clock. People noticed my language was no longer that of the peacemaker of Europe. I'd become addicted to my paramours story, I had specialist books out: What My Paramour Thinks About So-called Liberal Reforms, The Ninety-nine Sleeping Positions of My Paramour (with diagrams) and Instructions My Paramour Feels Your Dog Would Obey. I couldn't smoke a cigarette without apologising to the walls. So my friend set me up with sandwiches, a flask of sugary tea and helped me build the kennel: "There is nothing more relaxed, more tranquil, than to live alone in a kennel in a church." I had no more kidnapping scares or menacing phone calls. No unmarked jeeps waiting in the street for me. I didn't receive a Valentine's card saying "No one likes you, love from everyone." Although, I couldn't stand up straight due to the low kennel roof and living in a church was like living inside a lull in the wind. I wondered why my friend had been quite so insistent about fitting the car-clamp onto my left thigh, I'd run out of toffees and what with no TV, no travel Scrabble, no rowing machine, there was literally nothing to do but pray.
MY DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER
He says some fascinating themes are unfolding. I've always wanted to be seen as part of a social movement to do with ease or truth. The filming began a month ago and he has access to all my archives. "It's a good medium for portraying the sly tussle between intent and fear, hesitation and resolve, when a person finishes a triumphant sentence and then fails to sustain the steel in their eyes, looks left, blinks twice. We never hide anything, not really, folk just doubt their first reading but they saw it. They did see it. What might they see in you?" . . . Well! I signed the contract right there. Now he cakes me non-stop in make-up and praise. "Do I look like I give a flying macaroon?!" I commercialise my madness for him, so he can spread the hype. "Oh look I'm a big train!" I said the other day. He loved that. He wants infrared lenses for breakfast which no one's ever done, not even his rival - a woman in an over-sized pea-green cagoule and a navy blue head-band like a small girl who carries a midget camera- man on her back and pops up in every pocket of corruption with a knife whizzing past her ear, shouting "Tell me something I don't know!" in the faces of hapless area-boys. "If she leaves a calling card, bin it," he tells me, convinced she wants to steal his latest muse for the cover of Time magazine: "me with a coat on looking glum". I won't answer any questions about my secret life or my scorpion jar, or health, and besides he seems more worried about ‘art'.
I thought I was the child in this scenario. I played the child and you loved me. I did a grumpy face when the university took Mr Teddy Rag-Ears, I got words muddled like "I stood very truck as the still went through me." But then today my future child called me on the telephone and said, in a squeaky voice, "My mum is dying, can you come over, I need someone to talk to." I didn't know where my future child lived. I had a feeling she was called Bertha which disappointed me. "I live in south east west London," she said, "Where the spies and the cleaners live. It's spotless and seemingly empty." On the way over, a terrible pain ripped through my stomach and I distantly remembered a woman from my adulthood I hadn't seen since that bed-wetting dream. I passed glass conservatories on Bertha's street. They were acting as gallows for hanging plants, "I like that image," says Bertha, knotting the ties on my hospital gown, shooing me out: "I told you no more running away from hospital, didn't I?" Bertha, I went straight back. It's disappeared — all except the scout-hut used for art therapy that whiffs a bit. This is my picture of mummy: that is a tree because she's in a forest, those are mummy's pink gloves and that's an axe.
Hey Las Vegas
Hey Las Vegas, can nothing save us from you? Hey bottle-bins and Tesco Metro, Monday yawnings, flu symptoms, the station pub at Waterloo. You're all Las Vegas and I'm hooked on you. Hey Las Vegas, you're a cheeky sausage, aren't you? Swapping my lovers while I'm under the covers watching your tattoo change. Kisses began in the city of sin - be it York or Durham - die with you, Las Vegas. Hey Las Vegas, can a Yorkshire lass match her drinks with you? I built a bedroom casino, bet my hotel bible and lost a week. Just one, Las Vegas, pinch of comatose, powder up the nose and I'm a queen for you. Hey Las Vegas, I wore my Elvis costume for you, a genuflect in Wetherspoons from muscle cramp: your promise, like a flung bouquet off Humber Bridge, to break my fall Las Vegas, like the A63.
Her self-esteem sleeps under leopard print, herb-like and shivery as ghost-ships. She dreams of sitar music and tree surgery but wakes up wanting to be used by the dawn boys, the brethren, the doe-like patrol who can muss up her tights by the stockade and make her feel dead. She feels responsible for devolution in all of its forms - perforated aspen trees, halcyon rapes, maladjusted skateboards for the elderly. She feels damned yet she's benighted with puissant hydroplanes. It's like watching Joan of Arc cut herself with Bic razors but my compassion is hardly benign.
Everybody had a throat and none was gulping. Presently came another man with drinks. In the manner of tedious mingling, it was easeful enough. It was only a tad drafty and always abundant with firewood. That is to say, no one ever mentioned the roof had been blown off. There was little of the sobbing and song-writing about birds one usually finds in these places, rather how frank it was, how open. "I was going to offer you representation," said a camp lawyer, stripping to his boxers for a dip in the pool, "but I see that won't be necessary." Sometimes I wished you would show me something, just a nod or a wave of a glove.
PLAYING AT FAMILIES
When you can pick up your mother in thickset hands, roll her over and tenderly remove her wings. When you can rip off your father's moustache with a twitch of finger and thumb, telling him, ‘It'll never do good with the ladies, not any more.' When you can place them on your shelf, like miniature models, knowing that every night they search the bedroom, looking for lovers and empty wine bottles, but melt into the carpet when you open your eyes. When you can arrange your grandparents in tiny velvet chairs and gently put them in the embers of the fire, soothing them through cooing lips that you're ‘Well fed and educated,' so there's no need to worry. When you can put your relatives in separate boxes to make sure they don't breed or cut each other's hair while you're out of the house. When you can lift them, light as a feather, kiss them and tuck them in matchbox beds, making sure your family are locked in innocent slumber, before leaving to go clubbing every night. When you can do all this, then you have to face the guilt when finally, after too many years, you creep back in to find each wide awake and crying that they hadn't known where you were.
I will be sober on my wedding day, my eggs uncracked inside my creel, my tongue sleeping in her tray. I will lift my breast to pay babies with their liquid meal, I will be sober on my wedding day. With my hands, I'll part the hay, nest inside the golden reel, my tongue sleeping in her tray. I'll dance with cows and cloying-grey, spin my grassy roulette wheel, I will be sober on my wedding day. I'll crash to muddy knees and pray, twist the sheets in tortured zeal, my tongue sleeping in her tray. Church-bells shudder on the bay, fingered winds impel the deal: I will be sober on my wedding day, my tongue sleeping in her tray.
If I was a virgin I could streak across your garden, drape myself across your armchair like a portrait of a lady who is unabashed and simple as a cherry in a bowl and only dreams of ponies and weekends by the seaside, sipping unchartered water from a baby-blue decanter, sighing with her slender throat and saving herself. If I was a virgin I could wear white in winter, read your dirty magazines with a shy and puzzled look, like I didn't know a crotch from a coffee-table, darling I could scream blue bloody murder when you caught me in the shower, snatch a towel around my outraged breast, my eyes awash with droplet tears, I wouldn't hold your hand in public, if I was a virgin, I would never spill spaghetti on my jeans. My voice would be as gentle as an angel blowing bubbles, I would be terrified by frisbees and sports of any kind, I would always ride my bicycle side-saddle. If I was a virgin I'd look great in a bikini. I'd feed you grapes and rye bread and my hands would smell of soap. You would hold me in your arms like a precious piece of crockery, I would sob into your jacket, you would gasp inside your pants. If I was a virgin, you wouldn't look at other girls, you would spring-clean your apartment before you asked me round for supper, give me your bed, spend the night on the sofa, dreaming of the gentle way I breathed inside my bra, my nightgown would remind you of fragrant summer orchards, and nobody would know my mouth tastes of peaches and I thrash in my sleep like a baboon.
A LOVE SONG
Long before we tie the knot, Divorce moves in. He sits on the naughty step, patting his knees. Crowned in towel, I step out the shower and he's there, handing me a raffle ticket. He plays kick-about with the neighbourhood kids, chalks crosses on their doors and buys them Big Macs Socking his fist into the bowl of his hat, he'd kicked the gate wide, that sunny day in Leeds. My mum was incredulous, "she's only ten, she can't possibly have made contact with you." He clocked my young face and handed me his card. ‘Call me when you fall in love, I'm here to help.' Perhaps he smelt something in my pheromones, a cynicism rising from my milk-teeth. With gum, he stuck notes on Valentine's flowers: tiny life-letters in factual grey ink. The future cut two keys for a new couple. On my twenty-first, Divorce took the spare room. He loves to breathe down the spout of the kettle, make our morning coffee taste mature and sad. He waits by the car, slowly tapping Tic-Tacs down his throat. We've thought about stabbing him, but he's such a talented calligrapher: our wedding invitations look posh as pearl. He bought us this novelty fridge-magnet set, a naked doll with stick-on wedding dresses. Divorce and I sometimes sit in the kitchen, chucking odd magnetic outfits at the fridge. He does the cooking, guarding over the soup, dipping his ladle like a spectral butler. He picks me daisies, makes me mix-tapes, whispers ‘call me D,' next thing he'll be lifting the veil. After the honeymoon, we'll do up the loft, give Divorce his own studio apartment. We must keep him sweet, my fiancé agrees, look him in the eye, subtly hide matches, remember we've an arsonist in the house. The neighbours think we're crazy, pampering him like a treasured child, warming his freezing feet, but we sing Divorce to sleep with long love songs.
A poem about hysteria You could order them from China over the Internet. The website showed a grainy picture of Vivienne Lee in Streetcar Named Desire. It was two vials for twenty euros and they were packaged like AA batteries. They first became popular on the young German art scene - thin boys would tap a few drops into their eyes then paint their girlfriends legs akimbo and faces cramped with wisdom, in the style of the Weimar Republic. It was sexy. They weren't like artificial Hollywood tears, they had a sticky, salty texture and a staggered release system. One minute, you're sitting at the dinner table eating a perfectly nice steak then you're crying until you're sick in a plant-pot. My partner sadly became addicted to Mystery Tears. A thousand pounds went in a week and everything I did provoked despair. She loved the trickling sensation. ‘It's so romantic,' she said, ‘and yet I feel nothing.' She started labelling her stash with names like For Another and Things I Dare Not Tell. She alternated vials, sometimes cried all night. She had bottles sent by special delivery marked Not Enough. A dealer sold her stuff cut with Fairy Liquid, street-name: River of Sorrow. Our flat shook and dampened. I never touched it. Each day she woke up calmer and calmer.
THE DRY WELL
In the dry light of morning, I return to the well. You think you know the outcome of this story. Sunshine is a naked, roaming thing like hurt. A well is a chance embedded in the ground. The well was dry yesterday and the day before. You think you know the lot about sunshine - an early bird knows sod all about perseverance. Good people, you lay down your curling souls on the dust and surrender. I swing my bucket. If the well is dry today I will come back tomorrow.
Megan Married Herself
She arrived at the country mansion in a silver limousine. She'd sent out invitations and everything: her name written twice with "&" in the middle, the calligraphy of coupling. She strode down the aisle to "At Last" by Etta James, faced the celebrant like a keen soldier reporting for duty, her voice shaky yet sure. I do. I do. "You may now kiss the mirror." Applause. Confetti. Every single one of the hundred and forty guests deemed the service "unimprovable." Especially the vows. So "from the heart." Her wedding gown was ivory; pointedly off-white, "After all, we've shared a bed for thirty-two years," she quipped in her first speech, "I'm hardly virginal if you know what I mean." (No one knew exactly what she meant.) Not a soul questioned their devotion. You only had to look at them. Hand cupped in hand. Smiling out of the same eyes. You could sense their secret language, bone-deep, blended blood. Toasts were frequent, tearful. One guest eyed his wife — hovering harmlessly at the bar — and imagined what his life might've been if he'd responded, years ago, to that offer in his head: "I'm the only one who will ever truly understand you. Marry me, Derek. I love you. Marry me." At the time, he hadn't taken his proposal seriously. He recharged his champagne flute, watched the newlywed cut her five-tiered cake, both hands on the knife. "Is it too late for us to try?" Derek whispered to no one, as the bride glided herself onto the dance floor, taking turns first to lead then follow.
I surrender my weapons: Catapult Tears, Rain-Cloud Hat, Lip Zip, Brittle Coat, Taut Teeth in guarded rows. Pluck this plate of armor from my ear, drop it in the Amnesty Bin, watch my sadness land among the dark shapes of memory. Unarmed, now see me saunter past Ticking Baggage, Loaded Questions, Gangs of Doubt; my love equips me. I swear, ever since your cheeky face span round I trust this whole bloody world.
I surrender my weapons:
Catapult Tears, Rain-Cloud Hat,
Lip Zip, Brittle Coat, Taut Teeth
in guarded rows. Pluck this plate
of armor from my ear, drop
it in the Amnesty Bin,
watch my sadness land among
the dark shapes of memory.