The Poetry Kit MAGAZINE


CITN 8 - November 2001



by Rosemary Whittingham

This is odd;
nobody pulling at my sleeve,
no “Miss, Miss,” urgently repeated.
I can’t believe the silence.

Once forty pairs of eyes,
innocents and streetwise,
would turn to me
as I came in,
each with a grin -
“Good morning , Miss!”
But this!
This is like an alien land,
hard to understand.

Outside, the unchanged buildings
square, tall, grimy;
remember the time we went
to the jam-factory?
We and the wasps, that is.
Most unsatisfactory
but they liked the smell.

Inside, small chairs and tables,
plasticene and Aesop’s Fables;
voices pleading
“Can we come in, Miss?”
“Miss, me knee’s bleedin’!”
Or me nose
or me elbow...
My piano has gone!
Poor Jenny would be a’weeping.
An empty hamster-cage -
no Beauty or Cuddles,
no Barbara Brighteyes, sleeping
no Shep. Shep?
Ah well, what’s in a name, anyway.

Playground duty.
“Can I ‘old yer ‘and, Miss?”
Confidences told and respected -
“Me Uncle Benny came last night , Miss.”
Uncles Danny and Pete
(Jim, Johnny, Kev)
came other nights.
None of my business and erased by
“Miss, she fell!”
Don’t we all, sometimes?

Sleepy, sweat-sodden heads
on Summer afternoons,
dropping into dreamland
with Pooh and Piglet and others,
watched by waiting mothers
who peer through windows
pointing and giggling
(like their offspring)
at their offspring.

At last the bell
and the exodus;
empty now, my room;
but no -
“Can I stay an’ ‘elp, Miss?”
Or hinder.
“An’ me, Miss?”
“Yes, that’ll be lovely. Thanks!”
“I wish you was my Mum, Miss.”
“You wouldn’t, if I really was,”
“I would, Miss!”
Such faith.

Soon my room will come alive again,
but someone of more tender years
with much to learn, maybe,
will soothe fears,
dry hot, salt tears
and answer to
“Miss, Miss.”
from my children’s children.

Be kind to them, “Miss,” -
I loved them.

This poem was the winner of the Sycamore Poetry Prize 1999