The Human Condition

The people surrounding us imortalised in poetry expressing all aspects of life and death, humour and hate, disgust, guilt, love but most of all inevitability.




This Lilly is a long-boned woman

with legs like skewers and

empty breasts lying on the furrows of ribs.

Her smile comes from an old heart

strong beyond reason. She smiles

at laughing visitors who kiss, kiss, kiss

planting babies in her lap.

Food appears like magic

chicken is fish, porridge is soup

and everything is beautiful.  



That Lilly was hidden in layers of old muscle

and blue-flowered polyester. 

Fourteen children darted in and out

with wives. Husbands and grandchildren

flapped hands at mince with onion

mince without. Boiled potatoes – no potatoes

steak pie, Spam. Fat chips: thin chips 

tea, no jam. Liver for William,

rabbit for John, licked-clean dishes stacked

the sink …smells ran up walls

dripped off stairs and settled

when she sank into her broad armchair.



Lily, while you were sleeping

the imprint of last kisses faded

with the night air. We smoothed

your temples to calm our weary hearts

our voices stuffed the room with memories.

We giggled at whispered tales, the children

were confused – we laughed till they cried.

Wee James skipped down the road

to see a woman who didn’t know him slip

out of his life. We counted breaths with you

and breathed in the last.


The End

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