MAG Poetry Competition 2010 – Winning Poem
abandoned in the fallow years
of schools, church halls, playgrounds,
swimming pools. Her sons chased
other sons, endlessly, like mice
on a wheel. Us girls caught her heels,
bound her ankles with name tape,
hair ribbon, skipping rope. At dusk,
hands doused in dishwater, discordant
noise from miniature instruments
tortured her ears; under her breath
she counted days - years and years
of them - stolen from her own life.
More and more she saw the answer
in the future, when we would all leave
home, or run away. She planned
to celebrate: set light to the oven,
solder the iron, smash up the plates.
Saw herself swimming through a tide
of spilt milk, towards freedom.
Now the future has arrived she sits alone
in a room full of people; suffers
the steady chiming of a granddaughter
clock. At four, like a cuckoo, she opens
the door, calls our names - plain ones,
long out of fashion - into the street.
The girls whisper, afraid she is a witch;
the boys point, sometimes throw sticks.
No matter. She would call those same
names over the whole world
if she thought it would bring us back.
We hold out our hands, but she sees
through us, knowing we are not the children
she is looking for, knowing we are lost to her.