Thirteenth Birthday

She bought a dead man’s cardigan,
unpicked the work and smoothed
the creased yarn into balls the size
of oranges. This was her secret.
She laboured at night to keep me
from hearing the tick tock of needles
fashioned from bone. She listened
to strangers' requests played
on the radio. She had a smoker’s cough.

I might have thanked her and offered
my perfect daughter’s smile. I might have worn
the gift each day, like a uniform.
But I stabbed the spaces where the stitches
were lost. I said, "This is your rubbish".
She opened her mouth and I left the room
before she could begin.

Alone, I examined (with some satisfaction)
this fresh hurt. I stroked her treacle coloured knitting,
soft as flannelette, the buttons like chocolate drops.
The holes, the cheap wool, the scent of hand cream
and cigarette smoke would not be forgiven,
would be used as further proof
that she was selfish and I was unloved.