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Image by Caroline Forbes

The Biting Point

The Biting Point

Thirty years dead and still curmudgeonly,
my grandfather is driving me through
the fog-numbed streets of Crystal Palace
at five a.m. He's in the plaid dressing gown
he wore to die in, and he's shaved,
badly, flecks of dark blood stippling his chin.
We're the only Austin 1100 on the road;
he tuts, crunching through the gears,
he blames the damp, the bad oil,
the years it sat cobwebbed in a garage.
My grandfather slows for the lights,
not best pleased when the engine stalls -
it's no part of his plan, I know,
to crank the key three times before
the damned thing fires - the times he's told me
a good driver knows his car's temperament
like the back of his hand. As a milk float
toots behind us, he mutters, frowns,
eases one foot off the clutch as
the other trembles over the accelerator.
Listen to that! He's triumphant
as the engine warbles its surprise -
Better than any opera! he says, and then
That's known as the biting point,
I'm just telling you so's when you get
a husband, you'll know what's what.
We coast down Fountain Drive, the car
sighs and dreams, a purring baby now.
My grandfather's bolt upright, sliding
the wheel under calloused palms
as the BBC transmitter winks in the distance -
the last thing he mentioned, the last fixed light.


from Lip (Smith Doorstop, 2007), © Catherine Smith 2007, used by permission of the author and The Poetry Business.

Recordings

Catherine Smith Reading from her poems

1How It All Started

2Losing it to David Cassidy

3Back

4The Fathers

5The Ewe

6The Set of Optics You Wouldn't Let Me Buy in Portobello Road Market, September, 1984

7Heckmondwike

8Blue Egg

9Simulacrum

10The Biting Point

11Snakebite

12Smoking and Reading Nietzsche in the Kardomah

13Ascension

14Baptism

15Cut

16Colin Pepper I Luv U

17Original Residents

18Sleep

19The New Bride

20Australia

21Calculation

22Cast

23Feral

24Hover

25Fontanelle

26Night

27Marcus

28Postulant

29Nectar

30Twin

31What's Required After a Day Teaching Poetry to Nine Year Olds

32Doors

33With Love, and the Date

34Prayers

35The World is Ending Pass the Vodka

Books by Catherine Smith