Housie

1 August 2012

Before the first call of the day
numbers grow bright,
illuminate globes tinkering in and out of darkness,
Christmas lights or an imperfect grin,
a momentary promise
amidst gold-rimmed plates of pikelets and Arnotts.
A blue rinse array of perms and cardigans,
punters fanned by dull slow rotors,
low and familiar murmurs of weather,
gardening, and Tony Barber.

Nell, my Nan, spreads her many cards –
she has all the mystery of a Tarot reader.
A circle of black and white beads at her neck.
Outside the wooden hall the greyhounds
are training, chasing a hare around the track.
Our tables span like ribs across the floor,
Nell reaches to straighten my cards.

‘Eyes down’ and a palpable hush falls –
a last teaspoon tinkle raises eyebrows.
Orderly rows of pens and daubers
rise and fall as number squares
are blotted like missing teeth,
            both the fives, 55
            me and you, that’s 2
            it’s sweet 16 – key of the door
            and stop work, 65

someone calls ‘Yes’ and it’s a line.

A cardiganned enforcer
gives the nod to the line caller,
            and we forget to breathe –
            the lights, the numbers,
my Nan’s lost to the strange incantation
two fat ladies
I’m watching the globes,
and finally it’s ‘Housie’.

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