Michael McKimm

Photograph of my mother in a beautiful coat

Michael McKimm

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It must be early sixties. She is standing on steps

in a doorway with her sisters, brother and cousins.

The house, oddly, looks like a clapboard homestead

in the prairies. They are out of place

away from brick-and-alley Belfast. Maybe it’s a beach house,

nippy coastal spring, the eight of them

lined up two by two in ascending age.

She’s immediately recognisable, a beaming smile, like she’s just laughed.

And the coat is double-breasted, straight-shouldered,

with big round buttons and a winged collar. It’s light grey

perhaps – the photo’s black and white –

and fits her perfectly. Made by her Aunt Kathleen,

likely handed down from Margaret who’s behind her,

it’s firmly buttoned-up in the fifties, and yet

the chic straight lines, neat pleats, open neck, tell you the future

that’s about to happen, the decade getting into its swing,

and she rocks this look, my mother,

proud and elegant with her family, a good day out.

It’s just a snapshot. There’s no way to know

what’s going on in the children’s heads, and though you might think

she’s smiling because it’s her time to wear the beautiful coat

it could be anything, and the coat is only for warmth

at her skin, pulled on for the journey home. The poise is all hers.

Michael McKimm

Michael McKimm grew up near the Giant’s Causeway and now lives in London. His publications include Still This Need (Heaventree Press, 2009) and Fossil Sunshine (Worple Press, 2013) and he edited the anthologies MAP: Poems after William Smith’s Geological Map of 1815 and The Tree Line (both Worple Press). An Eric Gregory award winner, his poetry has featured in anthologies including Dear World and Everyone In It: New Poetry in the UK (Bloodaxe, 2013) and The Future Always Makes Me So Thirsty: New Poets from the North of Ireland (Blackstaff, 2016).