'Sex Education at Boots' by John Lancaster
Updated: Nov 17
So it’s the old hydraulics then? said the pharmacist
blowing my anonymity to prescription queuers
reducing an intended whisper to a croak:
This Viagra: does it work?
Every time, sir. Never fails.
I believe you can get it over the counter?
Only if I take two, sir. He smiled
and to a choir of titterers and a woman mumbling
it disgusting in a man my age, I coloured up,
fled ashamed as if escaping again from youth club
laughter when they twigged that I knew nothing
of pulling or going all the way or muff diving
or getting slacked off or trying it on or full sex or
a good feel in the field with experienced Phoebe –
who wouldn’t let me near her with a cattle-prod. Me,
still trapped, stumbling through their maze of codes,
zig-zagging to another exit past Fetherlites and lubes
racked like those phobias I dream of curing. I mean,
what is ‘full sex’? Will I get stroking of hair and hands
and a back that quivers at my touch as I tuck in the label
of a blue summer dress like novels imagine? And
a cupped tummy rising and falling faster and faster
with a weight pressing down till it must explode?
Will there be a window spilling sun on a downy neck?
Will I not feel shame at undressing in that light?
All rights. John Lancaster.
John Lancaster has been a runner-up in the National Poetry Competition and is author of five poetry collections including The Barman (Smith/Doorstop) and Potters: A Division Of Labour which won the inaugural Arnold Bennett Book Prize in 2017. He is a jazz trombonist and lives in Totnes, Devon.