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Dorothy, Later in Life

She always regretted leaving the bright city.
Once she was stuck again with her monochromatic aunt,
and was consigned to farm drudgery and expected to marry
into an identical life, she sighed for colour and song.

At twenty, cutting cloth for baby clothes
yet again, she thought that even the poppies
might have been a better fate than this. She wondered
if she would ever accidentally kill someone again,
and half-hoped it’d be her husband.
She has never told him what happened.

When he comes back from the flat fields, he’s made
nervous by a cast of children wearing technicolour,
the cushion covers on which witches cast spells
and lions roar, curtains where yellow spirals yield
capering scarecrows and a robot with an axe.
His wife looks at him with those great eyes,
silently pleading and somewhere else.

Where is she, if not here? Something terrifying
in her face screams to him of wicked winged monkeys.
If she sang, her song might blow her far away
from him and into some mysterious dust.
Or it would flatten him, and bring the whole house
down on them all.


 

Cathy Bryant has won ten literary awards, including the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Prize. She co-edited Best of Manchester Poets vols. 1-3, and her latest collection, Look at All the Women, was published by Mother’s Milk Books in 2014.