Replacements
Downstairs, we find Dad dead
face-first in his Frosties.
He gets replaced by a spot welder called Morris.
We all agree the likeness is uncanny,
aside from the lazy eye
and the tricep tattoo of a flaming Pegasus.
When the Frosties run out
they are replaced by Frosted Shreddies;
the box contains a free reflector for my BMX.

I ride my BMX down to see Bryony, my girlfriend,
the reflector winking amber as it spins
on chrome wheels. I bike through woodland
that changed to a woodchip mill and past a millpond
that became a deli called Archie’s that is now
a warehouse haunted by surplus Indonesian cagoules.
The fork in the dirt track has been swapped
for a trail of breadcrumbs one way and
a lingering tang of tarmac the other.
I take the underpass – a glass tunnel
under a dolphin tank, its walls graffitied
with green squirls of pond weed.
Dolphins silhouetted against the rippling sun
stand in for the zeppelins
we all wish we remembered.

Bryony and I will watch the Beatles tonight.
Once, they were Jesus substitutes.
‘Too big,’ wheezed Dad, picking at his false teeth
and addressing a vacant, Mum-sized portion
of stagnant air in the armchair opposite.
These days, the strongest bands don’t just regenerate –
they split like zygotes and multiply,
consuming other, weaker groups,
mutating into new, competing strains.
There are now more than 5000 species of the Beatles.
We have tickets to see the Vaudeville Grindcore Beatles.
Ringo is a fat Fijian priest with a respiratory complaint.
In the centre of the stage stands a shackled red heifer
called ‘John Lennon’.
At the climax of every show, it is ceremonially shot
with a Nerf gun.

Years ago, the two of us were art students
understudying for randy, credulous teens;
those old incarnations traded day for night,
good posture for filterless foreign brand cigarettes;
they spoke with borrowed tongues
about the death of death
and horizonless continuums:
‘Nothing ends – change is forever,’
said Bryony, back when she was Tess,
and so the light summer dress
became supple tanned flesh
and the BMX became a BMW
and antidepressants gave up their spot
in the medicine cabinet
for face cream and birth control pills
till, cell by cell,
we had replaced them.

Outside Bryony’s house
I pull a very cool skid that throws up dust.
She smiles, malleable as ever.
I give her a kiss,
and she laughs and says that the old me
was a terrible driver.
She means it as a compliment
but I take it badly.
‘I’m still finding my way
into the character,’ I say,
‘give me time.’

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