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Maureen Duffy

You made handbags out of milk bottle tops

bound in raffia; machined rugs out of rags

and odd balls of wool; sewed cami-knickers

from parachute silk, my first satchel

handkerchiefs from flourbags; cooked up bread poultices

sheepshead brawn; crocheted cuffs and collars;

smocked, pleated, piped; cable and moss stitched.

Cakes though weren’t your forte. You were defter

unspooling golden syrup onto mounds

of bread and marge, doled out slice by slice

or recycling the weekend’s leftovers.


Now, sitting here, turning up trouser legs

apprentice task, I’m aware that even

the names for your skills are exiting Left

out of my head, and the mother tongue,

shop soiled, shop spoiled, we learn to forget.


From Oxford Poetry Vol 13 No 1 (Spring 2009)