Every November I can’t help but think of Mary Lavelle
shivering in her summer uniform, greasy hair hanging
limp not covering those sticky out ears.
Sitting in the playground long after the last bell, after
my mother had taken me to get chips and a new pair
of woolen gloves to match my winter coat
after the teachers had sped back to adult life in their boxy
Ford Fiestas-backseats full of jotters covered in slanted
pencilled essays and miscalculated fractions to be reckoned
with over wine in front of the fire
Mary sat and waited for someone to take her home.
That night she would not tell how the whole class laughed
at lunchtime at her empty slices of hard white bread
as she pulled them from their foil wrapper accompanied
only by a packet of ready salted crisps as a makeshift
filling. How Susan Logan had done high ponytails
for all the other girls Girls with clean hair Mary!
They nibbled on Petite Filous from pink plastic lunchboxes
that held Ribena cartons and crustless salmon sandwiches
and cackled when Mary did not come to school the next day.
For her mother’s funeral teacher passed round a card.
Every November I wonder how long Mary sat on those concrete steps,
shivering like a wet leaf, crushing conkers underfoot to kill time.
No-one to button her up. No-one to keep Winter from chilling
her soft, pale skin.