Kath’s writing

My parents were members of the Watford U3A Creative Writing group in the 1990s and 2000s, and almost all of these pieces by my mother (Kathleen Edwards née Brockbank 1925-2007) were written during that period. Where they relate to specific memories, I have attempted to order them chronologically, and the others according to their estimated date of writing. The photographs and links are my additions.

Dad

14 Balfour Road, Wallasey
One two, three four, five six, seven eight, nine ten. 
He sat on the chair, looking lonely, unhappy
One two, three four, five six, seven eight, nine ten.
I clambered beside him, to comfort him counting
One two, three four, five six, seven eight, nine ten.

At home on the bookcase I have a small statue
and each time I see it I’m back home beside him
Happily counting while mother stands by.
Suddenly sensing that now its not playtime
I slip off his lap and floorbound sit watching
while mother unhappy, her face clouded, weary,
says softly, “It's alright Jack. Don't worry.
Go swiftly and safely. I know you'll do well".
Many years later, the rest of the story, 
familiar to many but still hard to tell.
That morning he left us to stand in a work pound
with a few dozen others as desperate as he.
All hoping to be the one that was chosen
to work for one day maybe two even three
He was counting because of an old superstition
Good luck would attend him by counting to ten.

That day was a good one, he came home delighted
He'd called at the fish shop to bring home our tea.
We had it with chips and some new bread and butter
It tasted so good I remember it still.

Depression recession, laid off, redundant.
Words often spoken by bland T.V. announcers
In how many places are such scenes re-enacted?
Have they all happy endings as happy as ours?
All we can do is to try to make certain
that no-one feels lonely or useless or hungry
as to how we can do this well thats a big question
If you know the answer please telephone me!

***************

Uncle Tom

Old age sharpens the memory of the past, so it has been said. Perhaps this is why some events and some people stay in the mind. Uncle Tom is as sharply defined as if we were in the same room, and yet it is nearly fifty years since I last saw him.

He lived in North Wales, across the road from the Aqueduct, a renowned local landmark. We lived about forty miles away, a mere nothing these days, but then the journey involved a ninety minute train journey on a slow, stop-at every-station train. We lived in a three-bedroomed house and there were four of us, my mother and father, my brother and myself. I don’t think he ever slept at our house, but I can clearly see him sitting in a rocking chair, feet stretched out towards the open fire, pipe in mouth (it was never alight and I doubt if it had any tobacco in it), elbows touching the arm of the chair, hands waving enthusiastically as he listened to his favourite operatic arias, often joining in, inventing his own librettos as he sang. It was my job to wind the gramophone if it began to flag. Uncle Tom did not need winding up. He would continue to hum until my efforts were rewarded and: “Mimi was once more in her garret sewing until the frost was over”, hitting the notes correctly. In retrospect it was Uncle Tom that fashioned my love of opera which has since informed my life.

Tom and Kath

He was a large man with a strong square-jawed face, gentle eyes and eloquent expressive hands. He hated violence of any kind, certain that the Great War, his war (he had fought with my father at Gallipoli) was a senseless criminal waste of lives which should never be repeated.

During the second world war I was evacuated to Wales and spent some time living with Uncle Tom’s brother and wife who lived nearby. We would meet over tea in his tiny kitchen. His wife Dora presided over the teapot. She had a large unfriendly dog who used to sit on a chair by the tea table, a napkin around his neck, lapping his tea from a china saucer. Uncle Tom was reluctant to allow me to share the table with the dog so the dog would be banished to lie on the floor where he would growl angrily and nip any feet within range.

We would go for walks by the River Dee, which ran under the aqueduct, or by the canal which ran over it. He would tell me that some day there might be a fair world where everyone would have an equal crack of the whip. I wasn’t too sure what the phrase meant, but he explained “fair shares and opportunities for all”. He hoped I would live to see it. So do I, but I doubt it.

He was adopted by a large female cat which wandered starving into the house, but was quickly banished to the back yard by the large unfriendly dog. He fed the cat secretly, and found an old wooden box for it to lie in, well hidden between the wall of the yard and a tree. The cat repaid him by producing litters of kittens at regular intervals. Uncle Tom would be dispatched to “drown them in the Dee” He would obediently take them away, return home, try to light his tobacco-less pipe, and all would be well until the next time.

Some time later, during a family crisis, my brother and I had to go to the brickworks where he was employed. It was beginning to get dark and as we waited in the large factory we could see many pairs of curious eyes shining through the gloom. “What are those?” we asked. “Tom’s cats” was the reply, “He says they keep the mice down, but we all wish he would get their mother seen to”.

Uncle Tom died the day my first son was born. A man of passionate beliefs, sensitive, empathetic, I still miss him, and hope he found the “presence that disturbed him” that he spoke of, misquoting Wordsworth as we walked beside the river Dee.

***************

Jane

It began in a lift, a very small lift, with just enough room to take a trolley, its occupant and me. It was the beginning of the most frightening moment of my life.

It had been a fairly routine day. It was 2 pm, nearly time to go off duty. The telephone rang; could we admit a little girl from casualty with more than 45% burns? She had been stretching up to reach a snapshot on a shelf near the fire when her clothing caught fire. I relayed the message to the ward sister. She took the phone from me. Her voice was curt and somewhat exasperated as she turned to me. “You’ll have to stay on late to take her to the theatre; I can’t spare anyone else.”

The lift was gloomy, dark and noisy. The little girl’s screams had been muted by morphia but she moaned quietly. I held her hand.

“Its all right, Mummy will be here soon. The doctor is going to make you better. You’ll go to sleep, and when you wake up Mummy will be there.”

“You promise, Mummy and Auntie Betty. They won’t be cross will they?”

“I promise. No, they won’t be cross.”

They’d better not be cross, I thought to myself. How could they be so careless? What was a six year old doing alone in the house?

“Can I have Jane? I want Jane”

“Soon. Very soon.”

“I can’t go to sleep without Jane”.

“I’ll find her for you if I can. If I can’t, I know she will be here when you wake up.”

Who or what was Jane? A doll or a teddy? Perhaps I could call my friend on the children’s ward. She might be able to find a discarded toy that would help if mummy and Aunty Betty were too distraught to bring it with them.

When we reached the theatre she refused to let go of my hand until the anaesthetic took effect. The surgeon pulled back the sheet. “This won’t take long. She’s far too shocked to take a prolonged anaesthetic. Wait there nurse, we will need you soon to take her back.”

Theatre Sister nodded reassuringly. “It will be good for her to have a familiar face with her when she wakes up.” Hospital gossip had told me that this particular theatre sister terrified all who came into contact with her including renowned surgeons. Not so this day though.

I must remember to ask her mother to bring Jane. I’ll ask casualty to ring up. I tried to think who was on duty in casualty. Was it someone I knew? My train of thought was interrupted,

“Its all right, nurse. You can go now”

“No I can’t go, I have to wait…”. My voice trailed away. The trolley was pushed past me, and I saw that Jane would not be needed.

The silence was absolute. Everyone seemed to be in suspended animation. Even now, 45 years later, I can describe the theatre ante-room in minute detail. The small figure was lifeless. Until that moment I had not realised what death meant. Now I knew, and I found it terrifying. It was the absence of life. I knew now why people believed in the soul. The child on the trolley had retained nothing of the little girl I had taken up in the lift. Something had gone, but where? Not to an all loving all caring God. Where was he when those little arms stretched up too far?

“I’ll take her down.” Nobody stopped me. Back to the lift, darker and colder. I held the hand again. But it wasn’t her hand. She wasn’t there.

Back in the ward in the side room reserved for visitors I saw two women, one carrying a small battered Teddy – Jane? The sun shone brightly lighting up every corner of the room. Why then did it feel so cold? They were silent. Staring into a blackness only they could see.

I like to think that the little girl found Jane.

***************

The Way We Were

Matron sat bolt upright behind a huge desk. I stood in front; I could not do otherwise – there was no other furniture in the room. “Is your family part of the Brocklebank Shipping Line?” she asked, but did not wait for an answer.

I answered questions on schooling, yes, I had matriculated. No, I had not completed my training at a local children’s hospital. “Why not?” I couldn’t tell her that I had left because one of the children had died. Sick adults die as well; if I wanted to be a nurse I would have to get used to it. So I lied.

“I left because I felt that I would get a better training here”.

“Why do you want to be a nurse?”

“I always thought I would like to be a doctor, but I think women are more useful as nurses; they are better at caring”.

I knew it was rubbish; I was, and still am ashamed. But she looked pleased. I was accepted, possibly because she thought there was an outside chance that I was connected to the Brocklebank Shipping Line.

Breakfast was at 7am. It was consumed at great haste. We were always anxious to know if authority had decided in the night that we would be needed on another ward.

Night Sister closed the meal by rapidly intoning grace, and where we to go. We had learned to accept our fate without a change of expression. We received a full report on our arrival on the ward. Sleeves rolled down, wrists trim in starched cuffs, hands clasped dutifully behind our backs; then to work!

The junior student nurses – or “pro’s” as we were called – were banished to the sluice room, scrubbing everything in sight so that when the Assistant Matron did her rounds she found “everything exactly as you would like to find it, Nurse”.

There was a mid-morning break. Half an hour maximum, often only ten minutes. Tidy your bedroom, change apron, grab a snack.

Make beds. We did this at a tremendous rate, and we enjoyed it. It was making people comfortable, and gossiping time. The patients would tell us their worries, and we would tell them ours.

Ward rounds followed. God-like consultants walked from bed to bed, trailing an army of silent acolytes in strict ranking order.

Professor C, the Consultant Physician, was short in stature, incisive and brilliant. It was said he had the Chinese ability to diagnose merely by taking a pulse. His bedside lectures were enthralling, but I always found myself hoping the patients didn’t understand all he was saying, although we did use jargon intended to mask reality. For instance, tuberculosis was described as pthisis, or acid-fast bacillus – anything but TB, which the patient would readily interpret as what in those days was a death sentence for him and probably for some of his family as well. Perhaps the Consultant occasionally made mistakes, but we were not aware of them. If any of us were taken ill, he is the doctor we would choose to treat us.

The Consultant Surgeon (always known as “Mr.R”) was noted for immediate decisions and radical surgery. He was handsome, and he knew it. Mopping his brow in the theatre made most of us go weak at the knees. His smile alone was said to cost his private patients fifty guineas. He operated fast, and most of his patients recovered. Everyone adored him.

After the consultants came first, the Registrar, slightly more approachable than the Consultant. One I remember in particular had the word “rat” as part of his name, and was called so by the nurses on account of his amorous propensities; we all knew it, so few were deceived by his charm.

And after the Registrar came the Housemen, still superior to the nurses, but easy to talk to given the right circumstances. We would exchange advice on how to cope with demanding seniors or difficult patients. The Housemen were immature, inexperienced and weary. We had much in common.

Carols at Liverpool Royal Infirmary. Kath middle column, third row.

During the day, Matron would do a ward round. She was 4 ft 10, and yet made a rule banning any trainee probationer under 5 ft 3. She wore a large starched hat rumoured to be a foot high, though no-one ever got near enough to her to check if this was true. We were all terrified of her, from the most senior consultants downwards. Before the war she ordered all her ward sisters to do the patriotic thing and join the PMRAF nursing service reserve, but in 1939, as soon as they were likely to be called up, she ordered all of them to resign – – she didn’t want to lose any of her staff!

She would sometimes refuse to enter a ward for a round, conducted with military precision, because as she glanced through the doors she had seen a bed castor that was not straight, or one of the embossed designs on the white counterpanes was upside down. When she retired, a select few of her ward sisters were commanded to take tea with her; they were served tea and biscuits in order of seniority.

Was she liked? No. Was she respected? Most certainly. I, for one, am grateful to have known her.

Dinner-time. Hand out those plates even if they are too hot to handle; most of us developed asbestos fingers.

Afternoon visiting. Two only to a bed. More bedpans, more bedmaking. Cuffs off when working, cuffs on when speaking to anyone above the rank of Charge Nurse.

Off duty at last, at six, six-thirty, or sometimes seven. Try to collapse into bed.

“Brocky, come on, you can’t go to sleep yet, come out with us for a meal”.

“Can’t, sorry, no money”.

“Jones has got a Welsh parcel”. That’s a different matter; all that Welsh butter oozing round the crusts of Bara brith.

10pm. Lights out.

10.05pm. Torches on. Whispered tales of horrors past and horrors yet to come.

11pm. Creep warily back to own room. To bed at last.

***************

Coming of Age

Casualty was very busy that night. We didn’t know why, but then we never did. Sometimes a ship would dock and the city would fill up with drunken sailors; that would make us busy. On Orangemen’s day we would be deluged with fighting Irishmen needing stitching and separating. Tonight was neither. Night Sister promised to send us down some extra staff, but so far hadn’t been able to do so.

I had just finished dressing a third degree burn on a child’s hand, and called in the next patient, when four policemen rushed in wheeling a lady who was screaming. She was obviously in great distress. The policemen heaved her on to the bed turned to me and shouted: “She’s all yours”, and disappeared. The casualty officer was nowhere to be seen – probably in the next room.

I looked at the lady. She was very young, about twenty maybe. She lay on her back, knees bent, screaming and pushing. She was giving birth. I knew nothing about childbirth. I had only just emerged from the age of innocence in which babies where flown in by a stork. In those days it was not the source of entertainment that it is considered to be now.

I could see the head emerging. I held it because it seemed the right thing to do. She was pushing and screaming as I shouted “Help”. By the time help arrived, in the person of the extremely efficient but terrifying night sister, I was supporting a very slippery baby boy still attached to the umbilical cord. Sister took over.

“You have a beautiful little boy”, I told the exhausted mum. She burst into tears.

“Don’t tell my mother, please, please.”

“It’s all right, don’t worry”, I tried to reassure her. Night Sister turned to me:

“Well done, nurse”, she said – the only time I had ever heard her praise anyone. “Go and get a cup of tea, you deserve it.”

On my way to obey her command, a very tired Casualty Officer grabbed my arm.

“Will you tell that good lady that her daughter has just given birth. She insists that her daughter has never known any men. I have told her that as far as I know there has only ever been one virgin birth, but her daughter may well be the second.”

Finally off duty, I rushed to see my friends to regale them of the night’s experience. When I opened the door of my room all of my friends were already there singing “Happy Birthday”. Believe it or not I had entirely forgotten that to-day I was twenty-one. I had come of age.

***************

Sallie’s Story

(Kath imagines a day in 1957 from her mother Sallie’s perspective)

It was a twenty minute bus ride from my house to my daughter’s, so I had plenty of time to think on the way there. Was it time to show her Philip’s letter? Was it necessary, even? The answer to the last question was easy – of course it wasn’t necessary. So why was I worrying about it at all? I couldn’t help it. The letter had lain at the back of a drawer and its contents had intruded into my thoughts for six years. The only way to silence its presence was to tell Kath. She wouldn’t mind. She would laugh. Yes, I will tell her. Today.

Kath met me at the bus stop with my 4 year old grandson Robin. He ran towards me.

“Nana. Nana, have you brought me my forprise?”.

“Robin!”, Kath shouted. “I told you not to do that. I hope you haven’t, Mum. He has a house full of toys.”

I picked Robin up and hugged him. “Wait until we get home dear. I know you will like it.”

Ten minutes later as Robin played happily with his forprise, a toy car, I opened my handbag and showed Kath the letter I had received from my son Philip.

Philip in Burma

It was written when he was out in Burma with the RAF, and began: “I have met the man that Kath will fall in love with” – the man in fact that she was now married to. Kath did as I had predicted: she burst out laughing.

“You did well not to tell me, Mum. You knew how I might react: Philip dictating my future!!! I am as strong willed as you are. How would you have felt if your brother had decided who you should marry?”

Aelwyn

I smiled but said nothing. In an instant I was back in a little cottage by the side of the River Dee in North Wales. I was packing a small bag (I had very few possessions). I was in a hurry. I had to be out of there before David returned. I wrote a note, very short: “I’m sorry. Goodbye.” That was all. The villagers would tell him the rest.

Soon I was crossing the fields to my brother’s house. To where Jack, who had fought in Gallipolli with my brother, was waiting for me. I was running away from my husband, my sister, my friends, my life. I had to be with Jack. I didn’t care how scandalised the village would be. I didn’t know how or where we would live. I only knew that we had to be together. We still are. Some day I might tell Kath the full story – but not yet.

***************

Moving House

We had to move down South, far away from the sea. The sea? Well, it was the estuary of the river Dee. Hoylake, our nearest beach, was not beautiful. It was almost sand-free, and the sea was often too dangerous to swim in, but we loved it. We could also walk to Thurstaston Hill, where Turner is reputed to have painted some of his sunsets. My parents lived just a bus ride away, and all our friends were nearby. We knew we would hate to move, but move we must; there was no alternative.

So we put the house on the market. Potential buyers and others came round – it was difficult to tell which was which. After a while we were able to differentiate between them: the potential buyer was often fairly brusque and asked searching questions about plumbing, heating bills, and whether the field at the bottom of the garden was likely to be built on. The others, the merely curious, were talkative, flattering about the decor and furnishings etc.

Robin at 1 Heathbank Avenue

One potential buyer indicated a bookshelf fitted into a corner. “Is that a fixture?” he asked, “we could use the space”. “Yes” I answered tartly. It hadn’t occurred to me that anyone could manage without the bookshelf that my father had painstakingly built into the corner. It is possible that some potential buyers were put off because I didn’t really want to sell our first house, our honeymoon house, the house where my children were nearly born before I was rushed off to hospital with a police escort.

In the end, the house wasn’t sold until we left it entirely to the estate agents. When it was sold, our semi-detached house, I told our elder son, then aged four, that we were moving house, he exclaimed: “How can we move house when they’re joined to each nuvver?”. I would dearly have liked to have literally moved the house, if only to keep my father’s bookcase and the Claygate fireplace that we received as a wedding present.

As for being near the sea? I fear there will need to be an alarming degree of global warming before we could sun ourselves on the beach at Abbots Langley.

***************

The Pool Builder

The bricks had arrived at 6 pm. It was light enough to make a start but he was a quiet man and when the family insisted that it was time for tea and TV he sat in his favourite chair and planned the next day’s programme. Tom chased Jerry through walls and halls but Jack was mentally counting bricks. (Had he ordered enough?) Flipper’s diving and writhing made him concentrate on the cement needed to line the hole. Was it deep enough? It would have to be at least 6ft at one end. He was momentarily diverted from his planning when he news showed marchers in Hyde Park bearing banners “Ban the Bomb”. What use to ban it? Someone would use it sooner or later. Back to the mental drawing board.

Jack in Wallasey

The next day was cloudy, cold and miserable. No matter. At 8 30 am he was out by the holes edge lining up the bricks. He picked up each one, feeling its weight and examining it for cracks. One or two he discarded “More like Sally’s malt loaves than bricks” he smiled to himself, and wondered if the comparison had more to do with the delectable smells wafting through the kitchen window than the shape of the bricks. He began to build the wall, plastering the mortar between each brick with great precision. Not too little, the wall had to be strong – not too much the wall must be neat.

By lunch time he had built up one side. He checked it and it was good. His lunch was hurried. No urge to eat. He had to get on. It took him a week to finish the wall and then he had to wait an impatient two days for the concrete mixer to arrive to turn the dark brown stony hole into a neat rectangular grey shape.

The pool liner arrived, and was duly fitted. He watched others stretching it carefully so that it fitted perfectly and then began to lay the paving. He worked methodically and quietly. He was probably the only carpenter who seemed to be able to hammer in a nail with scarcely a sound. It was not surprising then that the stones were levelled silently or so it seemed to Sallie who dozed on a garden seat near where he worked.

Occasionally he consulted the plan. His plan drawn with a draughtsman’s skill with a few artistic embellishments at the side. The family had teased him when they realised that he had sketched in his two grandsons poised on the edge about to dive in. He smiled and continued. He didn’t tell them that it was only the thought of their pleasure that kept him going. It must be finished when they started the school holidays, he told his aching back as he straightened up. One more week and it would be completed. It was. It is there still. 35 years later. The things that Jack built were built to last.

***************

The Rocking Chair

In the bedroom crammed next to a computer and a wardrobe we have a rocking chair. As heave it out to hoover behind I sometimes think it’s time it was pensioned off. It never will be. Why? I’ll tell you…

Perhaps I should try to describe it first. It’s covered in green velvet, I think. A sort of drab indeterminate green, very fashionable at the time. My mother and I bought it. Its has worn wooden arms which are discoloured with age which have been unsuccessfully varnished and shine where they shouldn’t. So does the velvet, or maybe it’s called dralon, I can’t remember. It’s very comfortable though. It has a tendency to rock a bit too far back, hitting the wall which is all too close behind it, and shooting it’s occupant’s legs high in the air. Most of our guests were wary of it which is one of the reasons it has been relegated to the bedroom. I love it. Every time I sit in it I am Sallie, my mother. All her life or at least all that part of her life that I shared, she had a rocking chair. We chose this one together…

I can still see her rocking, quietly reading. It was usually George Eliot. A very well known and much loved writer. She could quote much of that good lady’s philosophising thoughts…however, back to the rocking chair. There isn’t much more to say about it. I have thought of having it recovered, and even got as far as the inside of a shop specialising in such work, but something stopped me. Covered in some bright new material with the wood french polished, it would lose its magic, not just for me but for my sons who have already told me, half jokingly, that they intend to quarrel about who will inherit it. They too can see their Nana, Sallie, my mother.

Aelwyn writes: When Kath referred to the arms of the chair as being “unsuccessfully varnished”, she was kind enough not to name the expert who succeeded in varnishing the arms unsuccessfully.

I, too had a special relationship with Sallie, my mother-in-law, and she was greatly missed. What Kath has also not mentioned is that, one day while she and I were out working, Sallie’s heart finally gave out on her while she was sitting in her favourite rocking chair.

***************

Backward, turn backward, O Time, in your flight

“Come for a walk.”

“Not now. I’m reading.”

“Shall I make a cake?”

“No need, I’ve made one.”

“But I wanted to.”

“Lets have a chat.”

“Not now no time we’re watching.”

Why didn’t I go walking, enjoy her baking – it was better than mine – chat instead of watching tripe on TV. Now there’s no time left. It’s too late.

If only time moved backwards. Then we could recreate the past. Instead she joins me whenever I walk on sand dunes, and we talk about her grandchildren and their children. Do you think she can hear me? Tell me she can.

***************

To you, my darling Ael

What are we doing, you and I,
Standing quietly in the Square?
Why are we there?
Tired, cold, old,
Together in love,
Clutching our hands -
Saving our land?

I see you standing,
Pale, silent,
Thinking perhaps of those now still,
And yet again the cry is "Kill!".

R and F and R and L,
R and D and R and A,
Our future,
The sun, the earth, the sea, the sky,
Our world might die.

That's why we're there,
In Trafalgar Square.

**************

Through a winter window

The trees are white with frost
leafless branches stroking the icy air
The birds move fast, chattering with the cold?
The patio pots, cracked, spill grey soil on white turf
Forlornly empty, cold and bare.
table and chair
Did we ever picnic there?
Yet through my winter window I can see
A Christmas tree - thereby hangs a tale

We planted it many years ago, after Christmas. It had served us well. Decorated with baubles and surrounded by presents, we felt that it deserved to prosper. It certainly did. It grew so much the first year that even if we had had the heart to uproot it, it would not have fitted into the house. We bought a new artificial one. At least it was man made. not a living reproach mutely asking, “Why am I here when I ought to be outside?”

Life continued. The family grew, loved, left home, bought houses. We grew older. My brother died. It was not unexpected, but cut short a brilliant academic career. Our sons and their partners came to the funeral. We were all in that state of wordless misery invoked by such occasions. Somehow it is possible to keep up a mindless flow of socialising chatter with relations and friends while eating the funereal food. There are even flashes of light in the gloom as you see familiar faces and recall old times. Afterwards, back home once more, the silent sadness returns.

“Anyone for tea?”

“If you like”, uncaring.

“Mum, we have something to tell you.”

“Uh huh?”

“I am pregnant.” The lilting Scottish voice of our daughter-in law. A feeling of such joy surged inside. We had wondered. We had hoped. We knew that there might be difficulties. We did not dare to ask.

I looked out of the window and saw our Christmas tree and made a silent vow. If all went well we would cover the tree with lights and give presents to every child staying in the court every Christmas. That was 14 years and three more grandchildren ago.

The tree is still there. The top blew off in a storm but it recovered. If you visit us at Christmas be sure to bring your grandchildren to see the lights.

***************

Alice

Eight years old 
But I could see
My Life

Grace and glamour
Early life's joys
I knew

Crooked and limping
Forgetful and Stupid
Old age

The Sun drops low
That trodden road
Twists out of sight

The Future
Mercifully hidden
Don't look dream
Live only for the day

***************

Emotion

I must be calm though this little girl is dying. 
Her eyes are beseeching, asking for help.
Talk to her, play with her, comfort her, help her.
Show no emotion but sympathy, no crying.

The colour is black. It's dark and despairing,
It's shape a relentless hard-balled fist.
“Here's your teddy. I've dressed him -
See his lovely red jersey
And hat at an angle”.
She's smiling, she hugs him.
For that moment she's happy.

The colour is red now, with streaks of bright sunlight.
The fist has now opened,
It's soft and appealing.
Hold her hand now, and whisper:
“It's all right, I'm with you.
Go to sleep. I will stay here,
I’ll stay till the morning”.
Her eyes close. For ever?

The black fist's returning.
Get up, you're off duty - pretend you don't care.

***************

Age cannot wither

We have a plant that refuses to die. 
We have moved it into dark corners,
(Surely plants need light?)
But it doesn't die.
It thrives, it grows,
It refuses to flower.
Is it too old?
In despair, we move it
To the top of the freezer;
It shudders in time to the engine.
It grows even bigger.
We will have to move house
To give it more space.
We can't put it out in the cold,
Because it's showing us
How to grow old,
Gracefully.

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