I can’t just reach inside the house, tip it
like a dolls’ house. Pluck up the figure
who stands in dark unbreachable silence.
The urgency of anger passes. Outside,
chalk cliffs soften with grass and bracken.
We’re nervous of the kids who clamber
banks at night to smoke and drink under
the moon, safe from adult eyes. Only
yesterday they were us, tomorrow
it’ll be our boys. The long white road
is tarmacked over. The figure – who opened
these windows, dropped those shades,
who stepped back into this dark room
to breathe – lived, then died. In the print
there’s chalk dust coating everything,
a fine white film. The woman who
long ago pushed up the window, lowered
the blind, disappeared backwards
out of the picture frame, she, like me,
withdrew from flat low sky – clammy fingers,
prying eyes – into this cool interior.
This single A4 sheet,
typed by a doctor on
a big black typewriter,
has been folded and
unfolded more times
than I can count now.
I have pushed it under
grilles into glistening
Waited naked while
CRIMPLENE MATRONS EXTRACT IT
with clipped fingernails, scrutinise its contents under the surgical bulb of a standard-issue
table lamp, read it over half-moon glasses or with their backs turned, shake their heads,
fold the thing, slip it back into its worn brown envelope. Slide it out to me.
I have traipsed a web of city streets, A-Z crumpled in my jacket, turned bends where gusts
of wind whip up, sweep me off down black rain-sodden side roads. I have stood under
a streetlight, looked up, prayed, my face bathed in yellow.
Trudged on – down yet another wet pavement, under a suicide bridge, past a 7-Eleven –
thin envelope still clutched
deep inside my pocket.
Charlotte Gann is a freelance writer and editor from Sussex. Her poems have appeared in The Rialto and Magma, among others. Her pamphlet, The Long Woman (Pighog Press), was shortlisted for the 2012 Michael Marks Award.