Monday, December 14, 2009



We grew through our shoes at the same school.

She later grew into classy clothes.

I watched her at home, kneeling,

smoothing material, pinning patterns, scissors poised,



I ignored advice not to visit. ‘No point’ they said.

But friendship without jealousy endures,

and though the threads between us had weakened,

I needed to strengthen them……….


From the door I easily recognise her.

She sits on a chair, thinner, looks ahead,

(at what?). I kiss her, sit beside her on a cramped chair.

She turns, smiles, and asks ‘What’s your name’?

Neck hollowed, her fleshless shoulder bone

points at mine, it seems, with accusation.

They almost touch.


Her brown hair, sprinkled grey, is pudding-basin cut.

She wears a tee shirt, slacks.

No more boutique-browsing for Joanna.

No more travelling.

Her last home here, with men and women,

their backs curved, wearing slow shoes

and silence in their eyes.


They sit semi-circled to the bay window

and through the glass watch their daily movie -

tree-leaves in constant performance,

directed by the Christchurch breezes,

written from scripts created by the universe.


I give Joanna a present;

a small, white bowl decorated with red roses.

Head bowed, slowly, carefully,

she turns it around and around, over and over,

hoping to touch the magic that will unclasp its lid.


Next to her a woman knits, arms poised

across her ample chest. ‘Come daily,’ she explains,

‘hubby takes me home after work.’

She rests her knitting for morning tea,

drinks, eats her biscuits, eats Joanna’s.


The Asian carers care.

They move catlike over the large home’s carpet squares

and floorboards.

‘Come with me Joanna,’ one purrs.

She leans to her, takes her arm,

helps lift her from her wet towel,

guides her down the passage to the bathroom.

The radio above our heads plays familiar songs.

No-one sings.


Occasionally I talk to Joanna’s ear - family, what they are doing,

schoolfriends, what they are doing.

She sometimes turns to my face with a Mona Lisa smile.

After two hours I kiss her goodbye,

linger at the door, look back.

Tack-stitched into her chair, Joanna still strokes the bowl.

My name waits on a Flight List.

I don’t know when I’ll return.

I close the door resolved to remember a young woman,

bottom up, laughing into a mouthful of pins.


Caroline Glen ©

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