Maria McCarthy: Featured Poet

Slipping down

Boxing Day, and when asked what you ate
for Christmas dinner you say,
‘I should remember’.

You are slumped in a high-backed chair,
covered with a name-labelled blanket:
someone else’s.

We are told that at the Christmas party
you boomed out the unerasable hymns,
rallied the others to sing.

Today you remember your daughter’s face,
not her name; and of your son you inquire,
‘Have we met?’

You search my face much longer than you
would have thought proper if you were not
as you are.

I am introduced, again, as ‘Rob’s friend.’
You scan from son to daughter,
and back again,

the half-formed thought refusing to set
like jelly made with too much water,
and you shout, ‘I’ll have to think about that.’

You’ve slipped further in your seat,
as your grandson does when watching TV.
Now it’s Roger Moore as James Bond and

the woman in the red sweater wanders
in front of the screen and demands,
‘Does anyone know what’s supposed to happen?’

Your hands are bony thin; your thumbnail
thickened like a split hoof; and as you slip further
your shirt breaks free from belted trousers.

I have seen old photos, tie and jacket,
dapper. A care worker says
‘We do put a tie on him,’

‘But there’s health and safety to consider.
Joggers, that’s what they need
when they get like that.’

Your skinny bottom changed by day
from too-loose pyjamas
to baby rompers.

Time to sit up for the latest snack: soup,
two triangles of bread and ham.
You are lifted by three tabarded women,

one at each arm, a third at your waist.
You growl as you are raised.
You want to be left to slip down.

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Maria C. McCarthy writes poetry, short fiction and memoir, and has also written and broadcast as a columnist for BBC Radio 4’s Home Truths. Her first poetry collection, strange fruits, is published by Cultured Llama and WordAid to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support. She writes in a shed at the end of her garden in a village in North Kent. Her website is www.medwaymaria.co.uk

‘Slipping Down’ is published in strange fruits available from www.culturedllama.co.uk