We are allowed to talk
except when mum wants to shout
and we have to stop our game
and listen. Even when she pauses
and we think it’s over,
we have to be quiet –
just in case. We can never tell.
We don’t start talking again
till we’ve tested her out.
We take it in turns.
Today’s my turn. I could say Mum
like a question, staying where I am
on the floor, amongst the Lego,
pretending to tidy up the bricks,
or I could stand behind her.
Magic hug, my arms round
her middle. When it works
she puts her arms round my back
though her hands don’t join.
Or she’ll say I don’t want a hug.
Her anger’s still on.
She says Oh my God
and pulls away. I’ve done it then –
it’s even worse. She’ll go on –
how no one listens, how she’s
invisible. I do try to listen
but forget what I’m listening for.
It’s hard to keep up, she goes so fast.
I know I’m in trouble
for the tidying. My sister too.
But if Mum were invisible
I wouldn’t see her staring at me.
We wouldn’t be waiting for her
to throw handfuls of Lego
back into the box, the carpet empty
except for the tiny grey pieces
you can never pick out of the tufts.
Edinburgh, during the festival
The sun’s too hot at 8.15 – I cross to the shady side.
A man runs past me, throws a white plastic bag
at the glossy, brass-handled door of LGBT Scotland,
jerks across Howe Street, into the bonnet of a red Mini.
He gestures at the driver and scurries downhill.
I’m listening to Serial – real-life crime,
told week-by-week by Sarah Koenig.
The plot hangs on street-corner phone booths
and inexplicable gaps in time. High school students
work in the library after school, smoke pot at home.
I cross each road against the lights. A prison van
turns off the Royal Mile, descends to the underground
carpark of the high court. My pavement cuts
across its blacked-out basement windows.
Students with Fringe flyers are waiting to catch me.
I’m on the final episode: What We Know. Sarah claims
she’s working it out with us, won’t know what happens
at the end until we get there. Adnan Syed’s fate will be revealed.
I love her voice. I’m sure when she’s not investigating crime
she laughs a lot. I want her as my friend.
At a French restaurant on Bristo Square, a fox
has ripped open last night’s bin bags: Oily mussel shells,
a coffee-splattered broken cup, plastic bluebells.
I cut through George Square. Too early for festival goers
but street food sellers set out their pitches, chalk in hand.
Sarah doesn’t say, but I know what she wants:
to get Adnan out of jail. I worry I’ll get to the end
and find she can’t decide if he’s guilty or not.
She’ll retire in despair. I’ll cross the city without her,
make do with the unsolved dramas of festival life.
Kate Hendry is a writer, editor and tutor based in Edinburgh. Her poetry has been published in or is forthcoming in magazines such as Agenda, Gutter, The North, The Reader and The Rialto. Her first collection of poems will be published by HappenStance Press in 2016. You can read more of Kate’s poems on The Compass HERE.