All of a sudden, would Mrs McNab see that the house was ready, one of the young ladies wrote…Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse.
She comes as summoned, care
taker with a leer, a lurch,
a grinding of boots on shingle,
tears cobweb veils of silence,
gathers and removes the dead
mice, birds, insects, cleans
handprints from the attic window,
sets a grey cloak swaying, sings
music hall songs while
the stairs groan and tremble.
She winds back time for
a penny retainer, dusts
books she’ll never read yet
knows who the goddess of this house is,
what is expected,
how things turn on
the weight of a feather,
how the waste and the work
of war and naked ruin is always
too much for one woman.
She lights a lantern at the window,
watching as her son wields his scythe,
perches on a mouldy chaise longue
to take tea from a china cup
while thinking of her base-born children
and what it must be like to have rooms
waiting for you. She steals
garden violets for her kitchen table
-no harm, she’s unknowable to them,
gone before the porter brings their bags.
Morag Smith’s poetry has been published in ezines, magazines and anthologies, including Ink, Sweat and Tears, Pushing Out the Boat(Apr 2021), Poetry Ireland Review, Crannog and Gutter. She has been writing a lot of poems about the moon during lockdown.