One morning, you wake
to the rumble of the wardrobe door
as the 8.10am bus bears
your eldest child over the speed ramp,
along the street where you live.
Groggy, you rise, tiptoeing
downstairs to the kitchen, pull
out a saucepan, placing it quietly,
pouring in the white shush of milk
and turn the knob.
A warm breakfast feeds
five other children. You wake them
from their duveted dreams,
place the dishes on a dining table,
with spoons and call on them to eat.
Making lunches of ham, always ham,
and bananas instead of apples, sealed
in plastic boxes – one, two, three, four, five,
and fill their bottles; three pink ones,
two black ones.
In the tumult of their trousers, tights and shirts
you fill their bags and send them, hatted,
scarved and gloved, to school
and listen to a silence frayed
by the distant rumble of a wardrobe door.
As the kettle reaches boiling point,
you turn on your PC and plan a menu for tea.
Tuned to the noises of her home –
she rose fairly soft with rosy cheeks.
A house upon a road that ran
from east to west across two countries.
One country of army towers and ramps
of sudden khakied strangers, talking into
radio sets worn on shoulders that carried guns
and the scent of an older menace.
The other country of cattle, the smell of manure.
A faded cottage in a colour garden,
of lawns and apple trees. Box hedges borderlined
a market garden, kings and cabbages suffocated
by the trees gone over through excess of water
and light. Both sides of the one coin, spent
by two families of the one branch.
But she rises, fairly soft with rosy cheeks,
she is seven, not six, nor eight neither.
She does not know.
Before you knew, in the sense of that awareness,
what you held? The song of wood pigeons calling,
answering, in the wood behind your home,
told all – the realm of territory, a few square mile
to fly over, a wood of trees before the disease
killed slowly, choking out the birds, giving less
cover to the games of children; cops and robbers,
cowboys and ‘injuns – heard but never played with.
A solitary breeze blows across a marsh field
your playground; hillocks and mounds preparing
you for the tumble of ancient monuments
and the organised disorder of grass that died.
A square box of a bedsit: a bed, a wardrobe,
a sink and a counter gashed with a white cooker.
A black-and-white TV, a three-in-one stereo.
White counterpane, white walls plastered
with teenage detritus. Posters faded, frayed
matchsticks, butts, sink full of dirty knickers,
a pedal-powered Singer, that served
as dressing table. Nights of ‘Sex Dwarf’
and days of black clothes and maquette faces.
An apprenticeship of make-up, drinks,
appetites for loud, thoughtless remarks;
a remaking of personality within those walls.
Breathless with the pulsing, purging pain –
you’ve got to feel your way toward
the end of this. You’re stuck in this panting,
waiting time. It’s four in the morning,
the black outside the frosted window fades
grey. They tell you it will be soon.
You’re waiting on your body too.
You know it’s a big ask, to push 4.2 kilos
up a hill, whilst lying on your back,
but vertical’s out of the question now.
You beg them to cut you, anything to
get it over. The midwife smiles a secret
to herself, knowing you at that point
of baby before body. And so you push,
getting ready for the crinkled blue, basted
with vernix and more hair than ever thought of.
A summer gone by, hearing children’s voices
playing make-believe: doctors and nurses,
houses and schools, their world populated
by your roles and those of imaginary
friends – too sketchy to make
it into this world. Your’s had no image,
just a voice that helped at night, before the
days of siblings, when you needed language
out loud. Their’s have blurs
from Pokemon or Yugioh, cartoonish
colours that hop-scotch with them
around the water-feature and up the garden path.
The side window at the top of the stairs
overlooks next door’s stage of patio doors.
Twin boys of one, orbit their mother,
dark haired, framing her company.
She’s always hanging clothes up,
when I catch her, on an airer inside;
not much drying in this drab winter.
I guess that she sees brighter colours
back home, kept wrapped inside her
head-dress. A colour like orange
or red doesn’t glimmer here under grey.
Better held inside for warmth.
And behind me the crone sleeps
in the morning. She wakes at night.
I hear her voice, alcohol tempered
she drones a life by, without waiting for a reply.
If you made it down this far - thanks very much for reading!