My Friend Janine

Often writes to Mrs Thatcher
In her Anglo-French
Spoonfuls of prose,

Or to the Archbishop of Canterbury
Them them the poor
Have too many children,

The cripples, the half-wits,
The Catholics: ze post office pay.
One woman wiz ten babies.  C’est une honte.

Sex is okay.  My usband
Was English but e ad passion
But e was a gentleman.  Always

E retired imself before.
You understand?
  One day a woman
Was feeding the pigeons

With bread.  French bread.  Came Janine:
Bread is for children.  I write
To ze archbishop e should pray

Zose pigeons make dirt
All over your close.

Sometimes she writes to the Pope:

I see one child is and
Grow out of is shoulder.
One child e as no nose.

You tell God.  You telephone.
You know ze numero.  I don’t.
You ask im why.
  Her sentences

Collapsing like scaffolding fall
Onto the archbishop’s shins
She spends all her money on stamps.

And she always gets answers.
‘The Prime Minister asks me to thank you. . . ‘
I pay my taxes for Janine.

from Rembrandt's Mirror (Secker & Warburg, 1987), copyright © Laurence Lerner 1987; private recording made at his home in Lewes, Sussex on his 90th Birthday, 12 December 2015, copyright © the Estate of Laurence Lerner 2015, used by permission of the author's Estate

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