When all my mum remembered
Was the isle of Innisfree,
I put her in an old folk’s home
And sometimes went for tea.

She couldn’t clean herself by then,
She couldn’t use the loo.
She only stroked her little dog
And asked me who was who.

I never sat with her for long.
I wanted to be free:
Dress up smart and head for town
To meet with Kerry-Lee.

Now Kerry-Lee wrote poetry:
Her poetry was fine.
I took her to a restaurant
And asked her to be mine.

She said, ”Though I’m from Canada,
I’ve lived for six long years
Up the valleys with a guy
Who never changed his gears.

I’m not prepared to settle down
With anyone just yet.”
She smiled the loveliest of smiles
And rolled a cigarette.

“Then sleep with me, at least,” I sighed,
“For money, if you like.”
So every Friday, after that
She’d visit on her bike.

You could say I was mad for her.
Neglecting my old mum,
I’d lie abed with Kerry-Lee,
While she got through the rum.

With Christmas over, mum took ill
And died within a week.
I drove up to the hospital
And kissed an icy cheek.

Before the crematorium
Had turned mum into ash,
Kerry-Lee had let me know
She didn’t need the cash.

Mad for Paul, she was, you see;
My colleague, where I taught.
Then everything got swallowed up
In one enormous nought.

And there being nothing I could do
About my mother’s dog,
I left her in the old folk’s home
Where things turn into fog.


from Silent Highway (Anvil Press Poetry, 2014), © Anthony Howell 2014, used by permission of the author and the publisher

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