What this blog is and how to use it

This blog contains poems that have caught my attention over the years. Many of the poems I've discussed and explored with 16 -19 year old students in my capacity as lecturer in English.

Browse the list of poems by scrolling down the page or read the titles of poems or names of poets in the sidebar 'Poem Titles and Poets'. Then click on the title or poet.

Wednesday 24 February 2021

Effects by Alan Jenkins


Alan Jenkins

I held her hand, that was always scarred
From chopping, slicing, from the knives that lay in wait
In bowls of washing-up, that was raw,
The knuckles reddened, rough from scrubbing hard
At saucepan, frying pan, cup and plate
And giving love the only way she knew,
In each cheap cut of meat, in roast and stew,
Old-fashioned food she cooked and we ate;
And I saw that they had taken off her rings,
The rings she kept once in her dressing-table drawer
With faded snapshots, long-forgotten things
(scent-sprays, tortoise-shell combs, a snap or two
From the time we took a holiday “abroad”)
But lately had never been without, as if
She wanted everyone to know she was his wife
Only now that he was dead. And her watch? –
Classic ladies’ model, gold strap – it was gone,
And I’d never known her not have that on,
Not in all the years they sat together
Watching soaps and game shows I’d disdain
And not when my turn came to cook for her,
Chops or chicken portions, English, bland,
Familiar flavours she said she preferred
To whatever “funny foreign stuff”
Young people seemed to eat these days, she’d heard;
Not all the weeks I didn’t come, when she sat
Night after night and stared unseeing at
The television, at her inner weather,
Heaved herself upright, blinked and poured
Drink after drink, and gulped and stared – the scotch
That, when he was alive, she wouldn’t touch,
That was her way to be with him again;
Not later in the psychiatric ward,
Where she blinked unseeing at the wall, the nurses
(Who would steal anything, she said), and dreamt
Of when she was a girl, of the time before
I was born, or grew up and learned contempt,
While the TV in the corner blared
To drown some “poor soul’s” moans and curses,
And she took her pills and blinked and stared
As the others shuffled around, and drooled, and swore…
But now she lay here, a thick rubber band
With her name on it in smudged black ink was all she wore
On the hand I held, a blotched and crinkled hand
Whose fingers couldn’t clasp at mine any more
Or falteringly wave, or fumble at my sleeve –
The last words she had said were
Please don’t leave
But of course I left; now I was back, though she
Could not know that, or turn her face to see
A nurse bring the little bag of her effects to me.

Click here to buy A Shorter Life by Alan Jenkins

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