Sent to flap about the washing, we tried
to stay good. But what's a kid to do? Bored by
the slimy scent of bins, by the oppressive
woodsmoke air of Avonbridge, which in its vale
wears a cap of smog in all but summer, we spied--
her window. Next to my gran's, Mrs Craw's:
the crone who dressed in black, like her namesake,
over selfsame spindling legs. So, what to do?
We peered in. Her scullery, empty; a yawning sink
like my gran's, ragged lino, Belling cooker.
And there, beneath her open window—soup-pot,
primed with tatties, carrots, split peas, for putting
on later. I ask you, what were we to do? Then
the laughing thought of it made us mad: it was all
we could do to stop ourselves from throwing in
stones and dirt from her back path. Which we did.
When her bad drunken son came home later,
to find no soup for his tea, he hammered her.
What could we do? We listened through the wall.
His roars detonated in my dreams; I crammed an ear
to the rubber sheet to drown them out; and her
emptied face—seen as we idled in the back court
by her door next morning—haunts me still.
Now, when I take a fill of my own mother's soup,
as much as it is good and warm and tasting
of all the consolations of childhood, still a part of
me expects one day to break my teeth on a stone:
or find the dregs of muck we left her with.
Published by Northwords Now.
My novel The Last of us was published by The Borough Press in April 2016.