Lynne Walsh

Comfort Eating

                                                                Photographs look pallid beside now:
                                                                Her in stripy jacket rigid as deckchairs
                                                                (part of a wondrous hamper of used clothes).
                                                                A pony jerks its head over a half door
                                                                Jean smiles, demure soft Sassenach vowels
                                                                brought too for company.

                                                                Whipsnade's a treat. Her birthday? Or
                                                                just a Saturday; not at the Hare and Hounds,
                                                                a bag of sweets, or later as she grew, fat fruits.
                                                                She came back with paper bags of souvenirs
                                                                plastic polar bears downy as peaches,
                                                                a stretching panther, elephants whose tusks

                                                                banana-like encase a writhing trunk.
                                                                She chewed them to return to babyhood
                                                                but failed. There was no soothing
                                                                in their smooth hard limbs. A brochure,
                                                                showing all the species in this world;

                                                                ice cream, and a picnic with gaz stove.
                                                                Lucky to have such things? But not just what she wanted.
                                                                Could have loved the old clothes, days out together:
                                                                Like on Dunstable Downs when he carried her shoulder high
                                                                Staring at gliders dizzying the clouds. She knew he left because of her.
                                                                The raging suitcase, shouting doors, the cat she was afraid of,
                                                                all her fault. Her mother torn to sobs which never ended.

                                                                The snap shows a brittle smile, grown without childhood,
                                                                laughing at the days as if they did not matter.
                                                                Toffee apples and candyfloss to fill
                                                                a mouth that was always empty.


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