Trying to save our marriage, my parents
laid linoleum over the matting
I'd stitched seam by seam with a curved needle,
and glued fake Formica on my deal table
for a surprise when we came back.
Sterile beige smothered our living-room.
How could they get it so wrong? And how could we
tell them? We muttered some nothings,
and slunk away in different directions.
Let's rush up to heaven right now and cling together,
all of us, in a huddle of sobs,
apologising and forgiving each other.
In the last August of the war, my
caterpillars died of starvation:
all of them, large or small, green or striped,
the hawk moth one with his spiky tail,
the long floppy ones off the poplar,
the black woolly bear, my favourite
(I kidded myself that he'd escaped).
We'd gone on holiday to Ireland.
I had asked Derek, the boy upstairs,
to feed them. He had full instructions.
He was twelve, a year older than me;
he had seemed all right.
But how could I
have entrusted my helpless infantsó
sealed in their shoe boxes and jam jars,
each with the right leaves, and totally
reliant on me for fresh suppliesó
to a boy, even if he promised?
A boy, no matter which one? A boy.
Bloodaxe Books / DuFour Editions
Copyright © 2013 by Fleur Adcock
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission