Poetry

Old wive’s tale

Old wives’ tale

From the floor
an old wives’ tale winks at me
in the watery glitter
of dropped knives, forks and spoons.

It’s bad luck to pick them up
my mother used to say
when I was a boy, curtains closed against the bright sunshine,
the dark rooms of her house
keeping germs outside.

Never look into a broken mirror,
chop wood on Sundays, cut your nails
when the moon is full:
step on cracks in the road.

If you put your jumper on back-to-front
or inside-out
throw it on the floor and walk around it three times.

Don’t pick up dropped knives, forks and spoons.

The tea-towel is defiant in my hand
as I reach through fifty years of inherited superstition
to pick up the fallen cutlery,
the tips of my fingers
gone wild and senseless

at the touch of something besides
the feel of wet shining steel.

Martin R. Johnson

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