Friday Poem

13 bystanders


there are suitcases in my room
full of old photographs
packed and ready to go
i never want to see them again


the men who came to do the concreting
ripped out all my father’s boxing
he didn’t know that with an elephant truck
full of slurry
our driveway could be trumpeted in one


my mother’s engagement ring
with its four diamond twinkle
on the deciding finger of her nurse
to keep it or take it to a fence
or keep it


spending my inheritance
on this flight
as the greenarse gases
make life difficult for all of us
not in first class
unable to get up
or stretch


revisit my teacherly turn of the head
as i graded your story
and did not look back
at the stains on the sleeping bag
to see how they got there
and what you’d said


there are other ways to go
so please
let there be no nurse like me
who felt compelled
at that moment
to pinch the nose of the old dehydrated woman
the doctor said would die for refusing to drink
the junior — who was she? said what
are you thinking? and i stopped


when i’m tired
i look like my departed father
and now his late brother and sister visit
they say
in the apple orchard we were three
in the reading loft above the horses
in the farm kitchen
before you
before the war
before the bridge
we were three


on the death of my aunt’s husband
we insisted
she must have a new bed
and fearful of the scorn of the men
who came to carry away the old mattress
i said they held the last of her married life
with its king size holes


the tangled extra blankets on our winter bed
once belonged to my aunt
they are thin but with the tint of egg yolk
and when we sent the rest of her old linens
to the vet to be cut up
for animal protection
i kept them


this morning walk
i saw a shag with a lure stuck in its throat
the skua circling
it makes me think of the girl aged three
taken off by a soldier and seen minutes later
in the arms of the Commander
while at gunpoint her mother
was directed onto a bus
her child’s creased photograph
shown to us in close-up
by the Al Jazeera journalist


for an eternity
when i was young
i only read books by men
now i’ve turned on them
the page i mean
and only read women
in the contents of journals
i assess for women’s names
expecting the thud of feminine absence
while hoping
for an equal count
am i still missing out?


my mother is gone
but in death
laid straight
i noticed how always she was tall


the last time i spoke to my mum
she said
stay close
i might not be here next time you come

by Janet Charman
Poetry Magazine, Feb 2018