Butterfly Stitch

Manchester, 1987. It’s December, last day of term. We’re in the bathroom. My mother has me in a loving headlock and is brushing my teeth ferociously. I am seven. My older brother sits on the edge of the bath, awaiting the same violent dental cleansing. A smile spreads across his older face. He is itching with a piece of information, something he knows that I don’t, something that I simply, surely, have a right to know…


Butterfly Stitch


When you told me Father Christmas didn’t exist,

all three years older, leaning on the bath,

waiting for your teeth to be brushed,

I was secretly glad,

though Mam gave you a crack,

because there in that bathroom,

in my vest and pants, one sock, one shoe,

I grew into something older, new,

and something was removed

like a butterfly stitch


and later that day

when our teacher came and

assembled us all on the stained carpet,

and announced the arrival

of Father Christmas,

red suit too big,

pillowed belly and

cotton wool brows,

someone pulled down his acrylic beard

and revealed Mr Cohen, the head,

some cheered

and some kids cried,

but I already knew,

looked down,

realised I was wearing your shoes.



IOB 21.12.15

About Ian O'Brien

I am a teacher and a scribbler, living in Manchester, UK.
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