In middle age my dad was made redundant
Laid off, put paid to, thrown upon the scrap heap
No cash kiss off for loyalty back then
Daily he trudged to the newsagents and back
Scanning the job lists, writing applications
In his copperplate script, while the wolf sat at the door
Licking its chops politely
No call for managers. Ma stepped up to the plate
‘We'll take in lodgers, clever folk, nice students
Paying guests, ' she said in her best clipped vowels
A flaxen haired young Saxon public schoolboy
Studying law, blue eyed, with teeth in braces
Stood with a scholar's stoop and pressed the bell.
A Classics man, he got an upper room
‘He'll suit, ' ma said. ‘Yes, he'll do very well.'
Nest month our local minister came calling.
Apologetically, he framed his question
‘Would you object to colour, Ms M?
The gentleman in question's a chief's son
Malawi-born, and studying for the church.'
Church was the clincher. Saindi was next in.
Third to the household, Murray, reading Physics
With pebble glasses, sniff, and halitosis
Freckled, with ginger clump of scrubby beard
Distastefully my mother washed the sheets
(Those easy-care bri-nylon, slippery things)
‘Who'd think a scientist would have wet dreams?
So often, too, the carnal little beast.'
(His eggs and bacon shovelled on his plate,
Not nicely placed like those of lawyer James,
No toast in quarters like God -loving Saindi
Last in, the teacher trainee, moustached Maisie
The clothesline groaning with her corsetry
And every mealtime soggy with her memoires
In tremulous falsetto, of lost loves.
Ma always handled Maisie with kid gloves
An unexploded bomb in furry slippers
Each room was fitted with a locked slot meter
Each bath hour was allotted, towels dispensed
No late night stop outs. Never any visitors
‘It's a real home from home, ' my mother said
Lights out, the house was quiet as the dead.
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Comments about this poem (The Lodgers by sheena blackhall )
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