Poem of the week: Housekeeper

A new work by Aidan Mathews

You said they’d be valuable someday.
They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.

You said they’d be valuable someday. They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.

 

In your enormous dormer room
Forty carpet rods from the letterbox,
A flight over the nursery,
I saved the front pages of burning issues.

Kennedy Shot. Two Men Land On the Moon,
Thirteen Dead in the Bogside. Saigon Falls.
You said they’d be valuable someday.
They’re not worth the paper they’re written on.

Now I think of you rolling yesterday’s
Property Supplement in the fire-place
Of the big study, of the cold drawing-room
And the little grate where you taught me the Hail Mary.

Such expertise in the sleek twist
Of the steam-burned hand, in the low
Breathing on the smoke of newsprint
And a damp acorn from the nuns’ cemetery.

This morning’s edition on the window
Is already the jaundice of Yellow Journals.
There are more life-rafts off Lampedusa,
Stick-women treading North to find West,

And charity texts you can tap for three euro
To Sight Savers and to Save the Children.
I’d stretch, if I could, to the highest brass handle
In the tallboy where I stored Biafra

And the bombing of Nelson’s Pillar
To the sock drawer’s small side-panel
Where you tuck the pocket insurance book
To cover the costs of your funeral.

Aidan Mathews is a poet, dramatist and fiction writer. He was a radio drama producer with RTÉ for more than 30 years. His most recent poetry collection is Strictly No Poetry (Lilliput Press)