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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.

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