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When my sister is old

I will wait at the door with flowers
if she greets me at all it will be brief
and cold as the Guildford house
where the stairs stayed uncarpeted
and the kitchen unmodernised,
names and numbers taped on walls,
coats and boots crammed under stairs.

Her back will be bent like our mother’s,
she will start in the middle of a sentence
half scolding, half pleased, tired of TV
and itching to get out walking with sticks
she will bring up that time on the Isle of Wight
when my legs gave way and she carried on,
fitter than me and needing to travel.

We will have tea and talk about church
or someone’s baby, there will never be
enough hours for all she must do or has done.
I will tease out family secrets and remind her
of twenty years she thought she’d never have,
if she comments at all it will be brief,
like the moment before sleep.


(from Agenda – web supplement to ‘Retrospectives’ issue April 2012)



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Robin Houghton 2021