Tamsin Hopkins

Grandfathers in Helium

It’s Spring. I decide to write a sad play called Grandfathers in Helium,
about all four of my grandfathers. Because relatives tie you down.

Because give them an eighth of a chance and they’ll define you
– wellsprings of guilt not content as the source of nose, eyes, chin,

roots to your buds and leaves.
They are like last year’s fireworks, flashes on the inner eyelid, still firing.

I didn’t know them.                                                       They don’t know me.
This is normal in playwriting.                       

There were three good men on one side                    a ‘Right Old B*’ on the other.
Nobody died in any wars                                              our family was hated for that.
The Old B*                                                                       seduced half the street
turning widows                                                               and neighbours into something else,
a different kind of family                                              the street became a new hell for some.

The other granny buried her confusion of men and looked for no more.
She’d had enough singing in Welsh, cooking and swearing in Italian.

Two were probably English as mutton. North and South.
One was Jewish, one Catholic, one a Methodist – (not the Welshman.)
Some of this may only be quarter truth.

One, a Major in the army, came back                         as something else.
The second was a famous wearer of greatcoats,       and red felt hats.
Number three played                                                     his violin in the loft.
The last, a silent man,                                                    always gave clocks.
                                    Everywhere there were clocks.


Spring, in a park: Two small ladies wear woollen coats, hats & gloves,
each with a snap-clasp handbag; they admire the vulnerable geraniums.
These are the anchors. The old ladies, not the geraniums.

A girl has bright balloons. Neon bubble-gum, with curlicue candy strings.
She holds each down for a time, draws faces with a marker pen – one goatee,
a moustache, a smile and a hat. Rosie cheeks and mismatched eyes.

Up they pop, bobbing and glinting, drunk on sun.
She shares the balloons fairly, not paying attention to who gets whom.
Here you are, she says. A quarter of the grandfathers. One to hold in each hand.


Blue Ladder

Despite  hating boats /  I
love the ocean/ and have
always known/ one day I
will  die/  in  deep  water,
perhaps/at the bottom/of
a  long  ladder/ like in the
film The Big Blue/ I hope
a  dolphin  will come  and
take me /  to a blue  place/
nobody can see

Despite   my   hatred/   of
boats,       boating,      boat
guys/     and  their  use  of
fuel/     for      recreational
purposes/  I   find  myself
on the back/ of a pleasure
boat  wearing/  factor  50
and        eyeing       fishing
tackle/   with    something
like hatred/

I don’t  know  why/   I  am
here,  or  how/  I  got  here
but  I   want/   to   get   off,
perhaps/    into    the    sea
although/ now  a  gale/  is
coming   or    a    squall    I
don’t      know/    but    the
waves    are     sharpening/
coming fast/  against  this
horrible       boat/        why
haven’t   you    noticed/  I
grip the handrail/ I smile/
then   I   have   to  throw a
cocktail    away/   into   an
orange    fire-bucket/  still
they   are    talking/  about
fishing   and/  still  I   hate
boats/   boat    guys/   and

There is a  ladder/  behind
the  boat/  I  scan  the  sea
for  dolphins/  How   deep
is/   this    water    anyway/
Some   depth/    expressed
in     fathoms/     whatever
they are/  I really want  to
ask/  Do  you   even    find
dolphins here/  Is this the
right      kind     of     water

Over  the  side/ I  can  see
nothing/  in  these  waves
called  choppy/  not  even
my reflection


Tamsin Hopkins is studying a Creative Writing MA at Royal Holloway London. Her work has recently appeared in Best British and Irish Poets 2019-21, Tears in the Fence, The Interpreter’s House, MIR and a variety of competition anthologies. In 2020 she won the Aesthetica Award for poetry. Her pamphlet ‘Inside the Smile’ is published by Cinnamon. Follow Tamsin on Twitter: @THopkinsPoet.

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