Armitage has condensed all of this into three small stanzas of memory. There’s a very natural rhythm to this, dotted with internal rhymes that give the poem a bounce like a brainwave jolt in remembering events. While the content isn’t exactly pretty, the vivid imagery allows us to fully experience this memory as if it were our own.
It’s a quirky love poem that epitomises the awkwardness of growing up as a teenage boy and how feelings are expressed and acted upon – anyone of that category will find some relation in this ode to clumsiness, we’ve all been there. Arguably, there’s an unsettling level of ambiguity we’re left with, but nonetheless a brilliant piece that will stick with you.
of the bad things I have done in my life.
Not least that time in the chemistry lab
when I held a pair of scissors by the blades
and played the handles
in the naked lilac flame of the Bunsen burner;
then called your name, and handed them over.O the unrivalled stench of branded skin
as you slipped your thumb and middle finger in,
then couldn’t shake off the two burning rings. Marked,
the doctor said, for eternity.
Don’t believe me, please, if I say
that was just my butterfingered way, at thirteen,
of asking you if you would marry me.