Nice Old Girl
She sits in the first pew, closest to God,
which she is deserved of as she is the one who hands out the hymn books,
fills and boils the urn which hisses from the back of the church
gently seething under the drone of organ key and the empty thanks
she collects along with the coins jangling in their velvet pouches
under her calculative eye, tallying the copper to paper offerings
and ordering the congregation in succession of worthiness to stand before St Peter.
She boards buses – always first – in a plume of lavender talc which puffs from the beige diamonds of her quilted coat. Seats are vacated, arms and smiles up turned
which she accepts through pearled veneers,
her tongue clucking a click of gratitude and entitlement.
She croons into prams,
parents cooing at their babies wrinkled nose
under the acrid undertones of her peppermint breath.
She serenades strangers with her tales of grief and loneliness
pocketing the arm pats and tender smiles as they bid her on her way, trailing her sympathy. Returning home she kicks the cat, greeting each other through spits and snarls,
switches on the television and remarks to herself how fat the newsreader has got
and who dressed the weather girl like mutton.
She gleamed at us from beside the wheelie bins, we tested her sturdiness under the weight
of our alcohol
nodding to one another
as we sat in the various positions of homemaking: TV watcher, reader, important phone call.
We’ll take it!
Promising marches – forthright and strong turned to bended fingers, stretched and white, lazy biceps awoken and alight
under the street lights.
We nestled her in that corner
cuddled between the fridge and the wall
under the sash window
which we slid up,
whispering secrets and cigarette smoke out of.
Our plans were made there.
Short term fixes and whimsical schemes and dreams of our future
which we mislaid,
slipped between the crease of seat and arm
where they settled,
discarded with biscuit crumbs, a sticky penny
and that scratch card that wasn’t a winner.
And then you were gone
It was just me and the sagging dip you left
which I curled into
tracing the scratches the buttons of your jeans left.
They tried to tug me up
Comfortable in our chair
under the sheen of your hair wax, smudged across the head rest. Shadows of day to night, month to season
wiped and fogged the window I had my back to.
The dreams were dog eared and tatty when I found them again, ripped in places.
I cello taped them back together
veiny seams visible
but strong enough to fold and tuck into my back pocket along with that penny,
Murder at the School Gate
Feathers tarred and slick
they drawled the detail of their day,
spraying and spewing through the mull and churn of pokeweed.
Out they came!
A flurry of flaps and bustling excitement swooped upon,
tucked under weary wings,
led home to feed and bathe.
I wait under the click and shutter
of beaded eye
as my darling hops towards me,
dancing and soft eyed, preening with love. I catch him as he stumbles,
Steering us away from the amber glow of accusation and disapproval.
taking a meandering path back,
tugged in the turbulent torrents, slipping through cracking cloud
but we make it,
my darling singing sweet and pure,
my heart swollen and heavy with pride.
We curl close.
His bill dipping,
taken by the slow waves of sleep, I exhale, warming us,
One eye on the murder,
the other glazed with my darling.
In scruffy pumps
squeaking along linoleum aisles
her drinking partner calling and haranguing
from his gated carriage
with merriment and sticky sweetness.
she scrapes foil from a chocolate egg
popping into his gummy mouth.
She taps a rhythm
beside the blue, red and green tops
head thrown back as the thrumming hum
take her away
swaying, arms elevated
accentuating the rattle of pills
against her ribs.
An alphabet of calming potions and concoctions
promising to make her
nails, skin, hair, sleep
collecting beats from jars chinking metal
bottles clinking jars
the thwack and boom of cardboard on conveyor belts
landing and marching, crowded and vibrant
trailing from view, dragging her dilated pupils with them
blurred and drooping
suffocated against plastic, shunted against sharp corners
for the last dregs of life.
Michelle Davey is a radio presenter and writer from London. She blogs as The Cockney in the Countryside and is a mother of 3 and autism advocate.