Poetry

The Leavings; Doing the Laundry; Lament of the Ageing Bird-watcher

The Leavings

Pity the woman who moves

to a house without her ghosts:

ghosts of her children’s songs,

their drawings pinned to doors

and foot-scrapes under swings;

the ghostly echoes of parties she gave

for tipsy laughing friends.

Other wistful wraiths

went threading through her rooms

to make their presence felt

when a wind unsettled the trees

or homely floorboards creaked.

Forty years of ghosts

should not be left behind

to wander unattached,

lonely and ignored.

Watch this woman upsize

and spurn her cast-off homes

like broken shrivelled husks

roughly flicked aside

as bits of real estate

for smart investment sites.

She’s tried a sea change, tree change,

an elevated status change—

each lacks the thing she craves

on long solitary nights

when chilling thoughts bear down.

The latest house she’s bought

had all its scars scraped back,

the walls are whitest white

but only strangers’ ghosts

drift queerly through the space.

Doing the Laundry

I used to love the steamy scent

rising from my mother’s wash:

she fed our sodden sheets and clothes

between the mangle’s rubber rollers

sometimes letting me have a turn

to heave and push the handle round.

Squeezed flat, the clothes came through

paper smooth to fall in the trough.

We fished them into a wicker basket

and lugged them out to peg on the line,

its wire held up by wooden props.

A wind from the sea would blow them dry.

Now I work in a cluttered room

feeding paper through the slot

behind a noisy printer’s rollers.

One by one the pages lurch

into the maw of the little machine

that prints my weekly wash of words.

Out they churn, freshened up,

to drop into the waiting tray,

a stack of pages trim and flat

wearing an altered pattern of words.

In a sunny room the laundered lines

are scanned again for tangled thoughts,

to check that even the slightest stain

was found and scrubbed off early drafts:

the copy should be whiter than white.

Soaking, washing and rinsing clean

will often brighten the dullest verse

to something you could wear to town.

Lament of the Ageing Bird-watcher

Although I have

the usual itch

my legs won’t take

me out to twitch.

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