In the Rest Home

In between the living and the dead
the liminal, the bardo,
I walk through the lounge at games time.
A semi-circle of chairs, Bing
Crosbie croons.
Beryl lolls, holding a ball.
Rabon says, throw it, Beryl.
Well done. One point to you!
Joan sleeps, mouth open. Her chin trembles,
tucks into her neck like a folded hanky.
Fred clutches the ball, a grenade
in his gnarled bombardier’s hand.
His bandaged foot sticks out like a salute.
Throw it, Fred. He glares, hand tightening.
I’m glad someone’s angry.

In the corner Peter hunches over the crossword.
He’s a rangy, blue-jeaned fellow. Beside him
sits Mary. Still, regal, a waxwork doll with hooded eyes.
She’s had Alzheimers for ten years.
He keeps her company, feeds her.
The children can’t stand visiting, so don’t.
He says she’s in there somewhere.
This is a place of forgetting.
Are you what you remember?
If so, Mary’s already dead.

Dad and I trundle past.
He thinks games are stupid. Can’t hear anyway.
Eyesight dodgy.
Look at these old people!
They’ve one foot in the grave, he said.

My brother rode down in the lift
with a corpse on a gurney.
Hop in, said the ambulance man.
There’s room for all of us.

Ode to Ancestry dotcom

I believe we’re related,
writes Samantha from Ontario.
Our grandfathers were brothers.
What do you know of Elias,
our great-grandfather? Not much,
I say. A merchant from Golders Green.
Which diaspora spewed him out, who knows?
We click and copy and paste and pour over
great-grandmother Rebecca, enlarged,
whose sombre gaze from a sepia photo
tells us nothing.

I spent five minutes slurping my saliva.
It’s harder than you think.
A holy communion of sorts,
we spit instead of sip.
Our chalice a plastic tube.
Our union shared in a common body.
Elias and Rebecca then Bertie and Arthur.
Now Sam and I continents away.
This is a split kind of love,
I think,
relatively speaking.

Two Women Speak

Dreaming, I fly face downwards
she says – over fields carved in sweat.
She twists her pendant,
the party unruly as playcentre.
We sit close – her dark curls touch my face -
drinking rough red like raspberry juice.
We shout over Led Zeppelin, the gyrating nostalgia
of 40-year-olds, parents now.
We talk about our men as if our lives
were not so different. To marry or not.
The case for vasectomies or tying tubes.
How we laugh and nearly cry.
I thought – you still go back to that bastard.
Her eyes reply – I get the crumbs.
They’re so delicious.

Letter to My Father

In old, old age life shrinks.
It folds like an accordion squeezed
to its last throaty squawks.
A spacious apartment funnels into
a room, a chair by a window.
Smiling caregivers bathe and dress you.
Your body, strong and supple,
that threw me into the shimmering sea
pretending to be a whale
is now bent,
legs withered to matchsticks,
skin, a mottled, leathery patchwork.
Yet … today on our walk
you raise your face to the sun, breathe deep.
Your white hair ruffles in the breeze.
Defiant and vulnerable,
you are where you never wanted to be.
Yet … you let it be.
It takes courage to know
how much you have to let go.
It is the memory of you
I am crafting now.

A Mighty Girl

So there were Kate and Lydia
and Alice and Grace
and Zoe and Danielle.
Others too.

Little girls of the nineties,
who laughed and fought, sometimes swore,
were not dressed
by their mothers.

Generation Y, who never stopped
asking why
if their slice of pie was gross or unfair,
faces tilted towards the sky.

Twenty-six now. The blonde bombshell
was no Marilyn
though she loved the glitter and bubbles
we throw and blow

as we walk behind
the white hearse
that carries her cardboard coffin
crammed with fluttering notes in crayon.

She was a lawyer, a roller blader, a kick
arse kind of girl with a shining heart.
She wanted to be CEO of Women’s Refuge.
She would have slayed them too!

Her last message on Facebook said
I hope you live a life you’re proud of.
Over and out. Not
how unfair.