To mark World Poetry Day, we’re sharing a poem by Adam Lowe, written in the street slang language of Polari. The poem (and accompanying glossary were featured as Poem of the Week in The Guardian on 12th October 2015.
Aunt nell the patter flash and gardy loo!
Bijou, she trolls, bold, on lallies
slick as stripes down the Dilly.
She minces past the brandy latch
to vada dolly dish for trade, silly
with oomph and taste to park.
She’ll reef you on her vagaries –
should you be so lucky. She plans
to gam a steamer and tip the brandy,
but give her starters and she’ll be happy
to give up for the harva. Mais oui,
she’s got your number, duckie.
She’ll cruise an omi with fabulosa bod,
regard the scotches, the thews, the rod –
charpering a carsey for the trick.
Slick, she bamboozles the ogles
of old Lilly Law. She swishes
through town, ‘alf meshigener, and blows
lamors through the oxy at all
the passing trade. She’ll sass a drink
of aqua da vida, wallop with vera in claw.
Nellyarda her voche’s chant till the nochy
with panache becomes journo, till
the sparkle laus the munge out of guard.
But sharda she’s got nada, she aches
for an affaire, and dreams of pogey
through years of nix. The game nanti works
-not for her. She prefers a head
or back slum to the meat rack. Fact is,
she’ll end up in the charpering carsey
of Jennifer Justice. What is this
queer ken she’s in? Give her an auntie
or a mama. The bones isn’t needed just yet.
Though she’s a bimbo bit of hard,
she’s royal and tart. And girl, you know
vadaing her eek is always bona.
Affaire: lover, serious partner.
Auntie: older gay man, role model.
Aunt nell: ear, listen: (also: nellyarda).
Back slum: public lavatory.
The bones: boyfriend or husband.
Brandy: bottom (from Cockney rhyming slang, bottle of rum).
The Dilly: Piccadilly, a high street or similar.
Gardy loo: “look Out!”
Harva: anal sex.
Meat rack: brothel.
Patter flash: gossip, chat.
Reef: to feel, to grope (especially the bulge or crotch).
Thews: thighs, sinews.
Vada: see, spy, look.
Vera: gin (from Cockney rhyming slang, “Vera Lynn”).
Adam Lowe is a versatile and widely-published young writer whose poems, including this one, appear in Ten: The New Wave, published by Bloodaxe and The Complete Works II. This anthology brings together work by 10 emergent, UK-based black and Asian poets, and is edited by Karen McCarthy Woolf.