She’s nicely spoken, neatly dressed,
intelligent blue eyes. She engages us
in conversation, but soon her story
leaks out in hints and covert glances.
She’s being hunted down, has left her home,
can’t stay long in one place, they are bound
to find her wherever she goes, no passport,
diminishing savings, no future plans.
We want to help, but every practical idea
is brushed aside like cobwebs. Her story
of doctors and lawyers, lies and deceits,
murder and conspiracy, thickens like gravy.
She smiles as she tells us she’s lost,
technically homeless, does not know
where she will sleep tomorrow night
yet offers to buy drinks, willing to spend.
She slips through the holes in her tale,
moves on to other listeners, takes
her constructs away in her small luggage,
shoes laced up tight to hold her secrets.
These are not their clothes: the sensible shoes,
baggy food-stained nylon. They are only playing
at being old, whooping over hearing aids
dragged from the battered toybox.
Their crumpled shorts and Clarks sandals,
cotton frocks and hair-bows, lie jumbled
on playroom floor. Tired of the Wendy House,
they find a new game. Out come the wigs,
grey and white, make-up to draw on wrinkles.
They must practise bent backs and sore joints,
line up with zimmer frames and walking sticks,
ready for slow races down care home corridors,
protesting all the while that they are not old,
that they want their mothers, that it isn’t bedtime.
Angela Topping is an escaped teacher. She has been a published poet since the age of 19 and has seven full collections and three chapbooks to her name. She works as a poet-in-schools, jobbing poet and educational consultant.
She has collaborated with artist Maria Walker, and the resulting exhibition has been on show in the North West of England, in Scotland at StAnza and in Llandudno.
Angela’s collaboration with Sarah James, the poetry pamphlet ‘Hearth’, was published in April 2015 by Mother’s Milk Books.