By Selima Hill
She wanted fun.
What she gets is tartan,
the classics, and a little wholesome food;
what she gets is toothpaste,
and the lodger,
who thanks You for inventing thighs, O Lord.
This is taken from Selima Hill’s 2001 Whitbread Poetry Award-winning collection Bunny.
Read by itself, without reading the rest of the collection, Fun won’t make much of an impact, yet. All the poems are connected to each other, by the thread of a tale about a little girl moving around in a house. The cover of Bunny has a cute little rabbit. But it’s not that kind of a book, so you don’t really want to read the stories inside to any other little girl during bed-time, or to any little boy. That’s because there is an undertone of sexuality throughout the collection, as we later see the girl in sometimes weird and intriguing situations; how she reacts to them, and how they change her as she grows up.
In this poem the little girl, like all little girls, just wants some fun. But the people taking care of her, her aunts, for example, probably have no idea that tartan, the classics, wholesome food and toothpaste, do not constitute fun.
The last stanza introduces the reader to a rather sinister lodger. He has an eye for the little girl, for his own kind of fun. The assonance of lodger and Lord, and their positioning at the end of lines, gives the reader a frisson of creepiness. Reading who, You and O rounds your lips – sensuous enough for you?
Before this, in the second stanza, the long “oo” rhyming of food and toothpaste, also at end of lines, gives us an adumbration of sensuality – eating, nibbling, mouths, teeth – albeit those two words are not in the strictly fun category. In later pieces within the collection you’d come across images of food as you have never seen in those lights, and of nibbling on, erm, some body parts. Read Bunny if you want to know what.
Talking of what, the second line of the first two stanzas starts with this word. In the last stanza, it is who. As if we could also be asking what is happening? and who is he?
The overriding rhythm of this piece is a regular fall-rise in the first lines, and a rise-fall in the second, in both the first two stanzas. This scheme breaks in the last stanza, when the lodger comes into the picture, with quite a rush.
The ends of the lines in both the first two stanzas are mostly end-stops, accentuated further by punctuations. I say mostly because "toothpaste," may also be a run-on, when the line extends down towards a new stanza, with new information, about the lodger. The last line of the piece, with further information about this lodger, follows a weak run-on of "lodger,".