Poems to share

Shrinking Violets

one of the Men struts through shower steam with a
WHO’S GOT SOME HAIRGEL THEN?
(hums the theme-tune from Rocky)one of the other Men
describes the bird from that partyhow
HE’D LIKE A BIT OF THAT
while all this is going on i face the wallgingerly
dry my bitstry to avoid eye contact with these Men
or these Other Menthen before i know it i start to expand

like that scene in Big Trouble in Little China
– except nonot that – maybe like
Violet Beauregard in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
unless that’s sexistclassisti don’t know
i’m just trying to explain find that image
but the point isi begin to expandnot in proportion
like the 50 Foot Woman because i’m not nor do i claim to be
or identify asa womanof any scalebut

i just began to fill the spaceno buttons to ping
because i’m already naked except for a
1980s Wish You Were Here beach towel
i start to become sphericaldisproportionatemy head
abdomenlimbsdistending outwardsbut
not in a fat-shaming wayand i’m calm about this
let it happen the Other Men don’t notice they’re all bantz-ing
striking posesdon’t register the slow-rising tide
of my sauna-flushed skinmy hot-air flesh-balloon

which encroaches behind themthey don’t even know
because now they’re comparing careers squaring up
their voicesmy body keeps Beauregarding (if i may)
slow-mo explodinglike that scene from Akira
except this isn’t a comment on Japanit’s a comment
on me maybe or at least these Other Men i guess
or me in relation to thembut anywaymy Cumberland
fingers start to touch the metal fixtures of the lockers
the sticky planet of my belly squidges on their backs
they turn and their eyes begin to widenpupils eclipsed
by my unrelenting scalemy unyielding presence
my unruly second-on-second growth

© Caleb Parkin

Caleb Parkin

Caleb Parkin, Bristol City Poet 2020 - 22, won second prize in the National Poetry Competition 2016, the Winchester Poetry Prize 2017 and other competition shortlists. His poems are published in The Rialto, The Poetry Review, Under the Radar, Poetry Wales, Magma, Butcher’s Dog, Lighthouse and elsewhere.

He tutors for Poetry Society, Poetry School, Cheltenham Festivals and First Story and holds an MSc in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes (CWTP). He previously worked in BBC TV and Radio production, as a teacher and Senior Inclusion Worker. He lives in a human-canine pack in suburban Bristol.

His debut pamphlet, Wasted Rainbow, was published with tall-lighthouse and his debut collection This Fruiting Body with Nine Arches Press in October 2021.