The wood shuddered and every eye
listened at the stair behind the wall
The door opened and slowly
a black felt hat followed by a long black coat
a black handbag and two black shoes
emerged turned and quietly closed the door
In her eighties she was still a mountain
crumbling now but not yet turned to dust
Lips quivered her moustache. She smiled
uncertainly at these strangers in her room
negotiated the pillar and struggled
through double doors - down steps - below the swinging sign
At the bar the cry went up
'She's off again. Better get your coat on'
He emerged - flustered - from the kitchen
followed by the smell of onions and hot pot
'Which way? '
He ran back - turned off the gas
banged flour from his greying beard
In sandals - hurrying up the cobbled street
Icy wind whipping through his toes
biting through thin checked trousers
He scanned anxiously for signs of her
'Fleet for her age - Pity her brain doesn't match'
Puffing - he turned a corner and sighed softly
Her bulky determined shape a few yards on
'Mother.. come on Mother
Its too cold to be out
Where are you going this time? '
'Home.. I'm going home'
She saw the terraced house three miles away
..its shiny windows
'Mother.. its gone
You know its gone'
She looked at this fat blank stranger
'Why are you calling me Mother?
I want Tommy
You can't stop me.. our Tommy..'
His eyes watered against the ice
His lips clamped tight shut
'Mother.. please.. come on I'll take you home'
linking her arm he gentle turned her round
Chin hairs wobbled as she cried bitter tears
He dried her face on the tea towel from his pocket
soothing as they walked slowly back down the cobbled street
'Soon have you warm again
Some tea and a biscuit'
'Is Tommy coming? '
Searching street.. face.. memory..
'No Mother - You know he can't'
She saw the strong young son in his uniform
searched the face of this grey bearded stranger
'Who are you?
I don't want you
Where's Tommy? '
'Its alright Mother
Come on - nearly home'
Up the steps under the swinging sign
Into the bar and a sea of pink faces
Her eyes screwed tight
Her face lifted
Every hair changed into an angle of welcome
'Oh.. you're all here
How good of you to come
This man will get us all some tea'
CPR circa 1990