Poem introduction

'When I grow up' is sort of couched as a prayer really, a prayer to God. I thought it would be nice for God to have a prayer which he could answer. So this is a poem to cheer God up.

When I grow up

When I Grow Up

When I grow up I want to have a bad leg.
I want to limp down the street I live in
without knowing where I am. I want the disease
where you put your hand on your hip
and lean forward slightly, groaning to yourself.

If a little boy asks me the way
I'll try and touch him between the legs.
What a dirty old man I'm going to be when I grow up!
What shall we do with me?

I promise I'll be good
if you let me fall over in the street
and lie there calling like a baby bird. Please,
nobody come, I'm perfectly all right. I like it here.

I wonder would it be possible
to get me into a National Health Hospice
somewhere in Manchester?
I'll stand in the middle of my cubicle
holding onto a piece of string for safety,
shaking like a leaf at the thought of my suitcase.

I'd certainly like to have a nervous tic
so I can purse my lips up all the time
like Cecil Beaton. Can I be completely bald, please?
I love the smell of old pee.
Why can't I smell like that?

When I grow up I want a thin piece of steel
inserted into my penis for some reason.
Nobody's to tell me why it's there. I want to guess!
Tell me, is that a bottle of old Burgundy
under my bed? I never can tell
if I feel randy any more, can you?

I think it's only fair that I should be allowed
to cough up a bit of blood when I feel like it.
My daughter will bring me a special air cushion
to hold me upright and I'll watch
in baffled admiration as she blows it up for me.

Here's my list: nappies, story books, munchies,
something else. What was the other thing?
I can't remember exactly,
but when I grow up I'll know. When I grow up
I'll pluck at my bedclothes to collect lost thoughts.
I'll roll them into balls and swallow them.


from Collected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2005), copyright © Hugo Williams 2005, used by permission of the author and the publisher.

Recordings

Hugo Williams

Hugo Williams Reading from his poems

1The Butcher

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2Sugar Daddy

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3Sonny Jim

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4February the 20th St

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5Empires

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6Holidays

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7Prayer While Sleeping

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8Tides

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9Bachelors

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10Broken Dreams

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11Stagefright

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12At Least a Hundred Words

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13A Walking Gentleman

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14Waiting To Go On

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15Tipping My Chair

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16Tangerines

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17Walking Out of the Room Backwards

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18A Life of Crime

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19Making Friends with Ties

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20The Spring of Sheep

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21A Start in Life

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22Death of an Actor

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23Now that I hear trains

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24When I grow up

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25Desk Duty

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26Couples in Love

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27Toilet

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28Desire

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29Everyone Knows This (1)

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30Bath Night

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31Post-War British

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32On our marks

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33A Dam

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34Last Goodbyes

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35The Age of Steam

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36Joy

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37Lights Out

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38I'm Your Father, Remember?

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39Dinner with my Mother

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40Holiday Poem

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41Saturday Morning

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42Prayer

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43Faith

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44Poetry

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45Message Not Left on an Answerphone

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46In the Blindfold Hours

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47Keats

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48Mirth

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49Everyone Knows This (2)

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50Last Poem

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51Nothing On

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52Rhetorical Questions

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53The Lisboa

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54Among the Combs

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55Rainy Night

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56Nothing Stinted

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57Congratulations

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58Sweet Nothings

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59Haircut

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60Mirror History

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61Bar Italia

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62Siren Song

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63Her News

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64Balcony Scene

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Books by Hugo Williams