THE PARTY BAZAAR
Ingrid in her shawl’s been here since nine,
burdening the tables on loan
from the church downstairs with Babushka dolls
and caviar, handkerchiefs and wine
from Yugoslavia, Bulgarian perfume.
My brother and I ask for a job
and are handed pink-and-white posters
of Peace & Détente to decorate the room.
It’s trickier than we thought
to stick them straight so secretly we give up.
Almost everyone’s smoking.
In the background, “Kalinka” on cassette
belted out by Red Army Choir
wobbles towards its peak. There’s tea,
coffee, Irish stew, and a cool display
of anti-Mrs Thatcher paraphernalia –
pens in the shape of nails for her coffin
we’ll buy and use in school.
Shop stewards come, and sympathisers
who, once a year, like Christians,
demonstrate their faith, the odd
bewildered lured-in shopper looking for soap,
or socks, but mostly it’s just us:
Card Carriers and the Kids Thereof,
filling up the air with fevered talk. By four,
Rosemary Street’s ablaze in the solstice dark.
We pack what’s left of the wooden trains and vodka
into crates for another year and repair
to the Duke of York, where once
an actual Soviet Representative – tall, thin –
in frost-inflected English gave a speech,
and I clutched my lemonade and was convinced.