by George Szirtes
The year of Cuba and Sleeping Beauty, it was
my third year to heaven in London Primary
with Mrs Haynes on dinner rounds, her summary
justice a smack with the spoon, reminding us
of virtue and the starving multitudes.
Dry pastry, streaks of grease, and scalding tea
in plastic cups - the cost of living in the free
world and cheap at the price. My father chewed
raw steak, my mother swam in garlic. Time
was lost in yellow smog, public monuments
still blackening in post-industrial grime.
We were the Empire and the map was ours.
We'd left behind our native tenements
For Walt, and Fidel, at home with the Great Powers.
• Bad Machine by George Szirtes, published by Bloodaxe Books, RRP £9.95. To order a copy for £7.96 with free UK p&p go to guardian.co.uk/bookshop or call 0330 333 6846.