Category Archives: poetry

Animals

I hate how their smells linger

In cars and houses, on clothes and fingers.

I hate their dribble, drool, sniffs and licks,

Their nips and bites, barks and kicks.

I hate the way they scamper and scuttle

And mortifyingly crotch-snuffle.

 

I loathe how their fur covers my clothes,

Gets into my hair, creeps up my nose

Giving me outbreaks of hives, a fear of fleas

Swollen eyes, a frightening wheeze.

I loathe how encountering their dander

Makes me tear my skin asunder.

 

And yet I love them when outside,

Seeing them flying free, running wild

Or on a screen, when a documentary

Makes me gasp, wonder, laugh involuntarily.

I adore their galloping majesty,

Love stories sentimental of canine loyalty.

 

And when one of them looks at me,

I feel our similarities.

A life lives, a heart beats.

I cannot eat their meat,

Cannot stomach flesh, sinews, veins

Minced and chopped, served up as my main.

 

 

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Leaving Home

Pristinely presented, impeccably dressed

She receives me from next to her hospital bed,

Casts disparaging glances at fellow inmates,

With their gaping nighties and matted hair,

Still disgracefully abed, not up in their chairs,

‘I’m not like these women, I don’t belong here.

I want to go home’.

 

I tell her about professionals’ concerns

That she can’t manage alone, she shouldn’t go home.

There’s nothing wrong’ she repeated stoutly,

Except being terribly old – I’m well past ninety –

I forget some words, I’m very deaf

And I’ll be gone soon, I don’t have long left.

I want to go home’.

 

‘Can you make your own food, brew a cup of tea?’

I go out every day with my trolley on wheels,

Buy enough just for me, prepare my own meals’.

‘But they say you’ve lost weight, you’ve been wasting away,

Your cupboards were bare, your food was rotten,

That, perhaps, you had simply forgotten?’

 

I don’t remember that’.

 

‘Can you manage your money, pay your own bills?’

After my husband died, in ‘88…’

(My entire adult life, I swiftly calculate)

‘…I had to cope, I learned the drill’.

‘But they say you’ve been giving money away,

Five hundred a month to a ‘friend’ you don’t see,

And thousands more, unaccounted for…’

 

‘I don’t remember that’.

 

‘Can you manage at night, do you ever feel scared?’

I’m not fussed about that! I’m very strong,

I’ve managed alone for ever so long’.

But they say you bang on the neighbours’ doors,

Distressed, undressed, at all hours

And they ring the police to report on your plight,

Concerned for your safety, especially at night’.

‘I don’t remember that.’

 

But I remember my son, he was born in the house

And died there too, a terrible waste –

Just seventeen. And my husband’s gone,

I’ve outlived them all, there’s nobody left,

I don’t have long,

I’ll remember them there, I want to go home’.

 

 

 

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When

 

When I was a little girl

Fascination lay in the bottom drawer

Of a corner cabinet

Where hid a small bulging bag

Stuffed full of my mother’s girlhood hair –

Waist-length plaits, severed at the nape of her adolescent neck

When a more grown-up style beckoned

In the 1950s.

 

When I dared,

I would pull out one of the soft, heavy ropes,

Navy-blue school ribbon still tethering its end

And hold it to my own neck

Marvelling that my mother,

With her ever-changing colours, curls and styles,

Ever had the same plain, brown hair as me.

 

When I think of my mother now,

I remember her not just by her things,

By the bags stuffed in drawers,

But through my son’s shy smile,

My sisters’ gentle voices

And the waist-length plaits snaking down my daughter’s back.

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Twelve

party_12

 

Occasionally, now, she can be prickly,

As hormones without warning ambush her,

Diverting her from habitual dimples and smiles,

Into causeless tears and despairing shrugs.

She does not know why she feels this way,

But I do. I remember.

 

So I open my arms and pull her close –

Small enough still to tuck under my chin,

With room to spare.

As she nestles into my chest,

Her father’s blue eyes look up at me

From her upturned face, freckled and pale

Like cinnamon sprinkled on milk.

 

She is all elbows and knees, jabbing into me,

Lithe and lean,

Limbs like knotted rope

From the hours upside down or swinging high

In her purple velvet leotard,

The slightest curves beginning now to break the lines.

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Filed under individual development, parenting, poetry