From leaving school to pension age work was the mill office
its beauty board gloving
her desk, a steel filing cabinet and sloping card index.
Glad at the week’s end of her buff pay packet
of the extrovert gleam of brass
the shy glow of mahogany
of Sunday mass and graves to visit
of Crossroads and Coronation Street and her chair by the fire.
Seventy-seven years in that house
tending her mother’s things like a garden –
the dusky pink roses on the good-room curtains
the crystal vase in the front window.
Crouching now in charity shops they shiver
like old stray dogs
their price tags telling nothing
of brand new shiny days, paper unwrapped, constancy brought.
While nursing notes speak of a poor mixer
still self-isolating a lot
staff reminding her again and again this is your room,
your home, a place you can call your own
three months later
she unpacks a little crinoline lady with a clapper under her skirt
and a milk maid with shoulder yoke and pails.
Positioned on her bedside locker
two days before they tell her
she has to be reassessed, there might be a move
from residential to nursing care.
Midnight and beseeching
a travelling man with the Christ Child in his arms
her cry to her kind cutting a path out to a frozen tent of Bedouin stars.