We go on Sundays to make her tea.
I’ve known her years, but every week
we’re introduced. She thrums my name’s soft hiss
in her teeth, tells you she’s sure
you and I are for keeps.
We bite our lips as she slams around the house,
chitters for a long-dead cat, and
worried he’s missing, puts out fish.
She never sits –
fluttering like a moth at the nets,
she asks where we’ve tied the house
and trap, while the red Ford Escort smarts in the drive
like a wound.
And would I like to see her frocks?
And every week I say I would.
She spreads them on the bed like relics,
recites the names of seamstresses, department stores.
There’s always one whose floral print
she bunches in her fist – flimsy anchor to the past –
says without flinching, bury me in this.
And that’s the moment every week,
the heart-struck lurch as she realises what she is,
for just a breath. Then like a child, afraid and angry,
she reaches for me, whispers I’m sorry.
‘Visiting Nannie Gray’ was first published in The Mermaid and the Sailors (Red Squirrel Press, 2011),
and won the 2010 Virginia Warbey Poetry Prize.
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