Swaddled in friendship and beauty,
I wake in the peace of her quietly gathered home,
the loving creation of twenty, sometimes tough, years.
Solitariness sustained by a marriage of order and function
with rich visual delight.
Everywhere the warmth, vibrancy of pattern and colour,
each wall abundantly layered in paintings,
mainly her own.
Clusters of unusually shaped mirrors,
textiles, textures, tell a life.
The scatter of eagerly lush, contented
plants boasts her ability to love, tend.
Awaiting its next ride,
a wooden clothes horse lies flat and high,
lashed to the wall above our passing shoulders.
An upturned bouquet of bags on long handles
hangs invitingly from a hook on her door,
each one a story in the making.
The rich floral jungle of her living room curtains,
deep red, turquoise and gold,
is warmly lined by a pair in crimson velvet,
daring the easterlies to try their hardest.
Such life is here,
a house crammed with
the strength of a woman’s nurturing spirit.
Outside, the flat, empty fields stretch under a wide sky.
The bare symmetry of the long, low Borders house
gives the rare passers-by
no hint of its bursting secrets within.
in their seventies, glamorous,
enjoying clothes shopping,
Both married, childless,
used to phone their mums
every day of their lives.
Now they phone each other.
Many around me have gaping holes
in their patchwork of
mutual support and companionship.
I have been lucky,
no close friends gone yet,
except Rosemary Lee at thirteen.
(I was at boarding school by then,
our contact broken.)
Family, not friends, dropping away.
A tight cluster, sister-in-law,
mother, husband, brother.
Huge gaps in my life.
With so much family gone,
I welcome in new friends,
younger women too,
as my wise mother did,
the love and connection.
My cloth is rich, strong and thick.
Warm and wide enough,
I hope, to comfort me as I age.
my shrinking body and days.
The missing pieces hidden in the folds.
“I’ve written a poem about that”
litters my conversation.
I talk to friends about
what matters to me.
I write about
what matters to me.
Early mornings I lie in bed
Sometimes a poem pops out.
My Dying Friend
Our daughter had a pet rat,
white, silky, lithe, always on the go.
She crushed its back under the cage side.
It lay paralysed, stiff, still, legs bent, tiny feet.
Only its panting showed life.
So it was with my dear old friend,
suddenly close to death,
fading from us.
Propped deep into pillows in his usual chair,
blankets, hot water bottle.
Immobile, useless legs extended, cold fingers curled,
sunken eyes closed, mouth drooping.
Slow occasional raisings of a hand to the face,
a few hardly whispered syllables, leg, neck, pain.
Effortful grunts as I try to make him comfortable,
shallow breaths continuing.
The vet finally put my daughter’s rat to sleep.
May he too soon be taken.
It might be a while.
I sense he is in transition,
preparing for the big adventure ahead.
But the sudden sharp staring
across the room at his wife,
eyes surprisingly blue and piercing in his hollowed face,
he still has unfinished business here with us.
As I left, he squeezed my hands.