Grandma Jenkins stirs her porridge
the wrong way. She doesn’t feel
the need for teeth. Her eyes
are sharp as tin. On warm days
she sits at the cottage door, her skirt
stretched wide, shelling peas.
I hurry past on my way to school,
but can’t resist a backward glance.
Would she put a spell on me?
Once I dared myself to stop
and say, Good morning.
Grandma Jenkins beckoned me
close, I could smell her baccy breath,
she leaned forward with a cackle,
chucked me under the chin. I ran
and ran. I haven’t yet turned into a rat
or an owl, but I go to school another way.
There was this woman – let’s call her
Maud – who went about helping herself
to things in shops. She was the kind
of person should keep a cat, eyes the blue
of a child speechless with joy at a birthday party.
She wore a flowered frock with lots of smocking.
She left her large shopping trolley in the hall.
Her front room was a tottering tower
of glorious booty, jewelled slippers,
velvet gowns, fur capes, things
she’d never wear.
There was a drawer full of tea candles,
a small table laid with lace doilies,
fairy cakes, sherry in tiny glasses
to welcome visitors who never came;
and no one would ever see inside
the airing cupboard on the landing,
each shelf heaped with bootees,
knitted baby bonnets, plastic
rattles in pink and blue.
Jennie Farley is a published poet and workshop leader. Her poems have appeared in magazines including New Welsh Review, The Interpreter’s House, Under the Radar, Lunar Poetry, Prole and have won several awards. Her collection My Grandmother Skating (Indigo Dreams Publishing) is due out later this year.
She has performed at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, the Cheltenham Poetry Festival, the Swindon Poetry Festival and at Cheltenham Everyman Theatre.
She runs The New Bohemians at Deepspace Community Art Centre, Charlton Kings, providing writing workshops, performance, poetry and music events, and is founder/leader of Picaresque, a troupe of women performance poets.