'When I grow up' is sort of couched as a prayer really, a prayer to God. I thought it would be nice for God to have a prayer which he could answer. So this is a poem to cheer God up.

When I grow up


When I grow up I want to have a bad leg.
I want to limp down the street I live in
without knowing where I am. I want the disease
where you put your hand on your hip
and lean forward slightly, groaning to yourself.

If a little boy asks me the way
I’ll try and touch him between the legs.
What a dirty old man I’m going to be when I grow up!
What shall we do with me?

I promise I’ll be good
if you let me fall over in the street
and lie there calling like a baby bird. Please,
nobody come, I’m perfectly all right. I like it here.

I wonder would it be possible
to get me into a National Health Hospice
somewhere in Manchester?
I’ll stand in the middle of my cubicle
holding onto a piece of string for safety,
shaking like a leaf at the thought of my suitcase.

I’d certainly like to have a nervous tic
so I can purse my lips up all the time
like Cecil Beaton. Can I be completely bald, please?
I love the smell of old pee.
Why can’t I smell like that?

When I grow up I want a thin piece of steel
inserted into my penis for some reason.
Nobody’s to tell me why it’s there. I want to guess!
Tell me, is that a bottle of old Burgundy
under my bed? I never can tell
if I feel randy any more, can you?

I think it’s only fair that I should be allowed
to cough up a bit of blood when I feel like it.
My daughter will bring me a special air cushion
to hold me upright and I’ll watch
in baffled admiration as she blows it up for me.

Here’s my list: nappies, story books, munchies,
something else. What was the other thing?
I can’t remember exactly,
but when I grow up I’ll know. When I grow up
I’ll pluck at my bedclothes to collect lost thoughts.
I’ll roll them into balls and swallow them.

from Collected Poems (Faber & Faber, 2005), © Hugo Williams 2005, used by permission of the author and the publishers.

Hugo Williams in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.