Sunday Roast by Charlie Jolley
We eat rain-soaked Steak Bakes on an alley down Canal street,
cold meat gravy spilling out like a treasure chest.
Then it’s ground pencils and shandies at the Psalter, come Monday lunchtime.
A half-smoked fag lights the grey like a firefly as she recounts
tales of Ken Barlow and Audrey Roberts, laying out damp china
plates in place of dinner guests, a copy of The Great Gatsby
dust-curling on her sewing table. We hear Dylan on the vinyl
player, and sway to the music like poppies in the breeze,
For The Times They Are A-Changin in restless playback.
The cupboards are bridged with folds of clothes, tags fading
like sideslip poetry. The fridge is milk-bare, its cold neon jaw
sealed shut. Still, I never expected that cold March morning,
walking down her quiet ward that smelled of attics and aeroplane food,
mum telling me to smile and talk about school. The Great
Gatsby was upturned by her bed, the same verse wrinkled
with years of touch, like the fivers she sends in Christmas cards.
I wanted to whisper in her ear Come on nan, they’re doing a pub quiz d
own the Psalter! But I knew that nan wasn’t sitting there anymore.
She’d been gone a long time.