Alice watches daytime TV news,
She eats breakfast
And wonders where her son is.
She proudly enunciates poetry to a Polish nurse
Who writes that Alice is muddled and uncooperative:
As the 'missing' wriggles in her belly
Alice finds comfort in reciting psalms and proverbs;
Occasionally summoning the full verse of Betjeman and Elliot,
Dribbling the words out in perfect sequence.
Alice sits with her head in her hands
And her top teeth in
She pulls at wrinkles in her stockings
And tells me stories of her school life in Sheffield in the twenties
And together we think of our fathers
Separated by four decades of sunrise.
The TV shouts attention but
Alice and Jeremy Kyle are not friends,
And with her hands over her ears she wails
For the entire screening of his show,
Yet she lives in a corridor of mirroring screens
And his voice spirals
From her room to the next and next
Creating an echoing vortex of endless complaint.
At last the programme ends
And an audible sigh
And release of tension creeps along the linoleum
Entering each room like a blessing.
The handsome African
And he switches to Sky for the repeat...
... So, William who is 103 on Thursday
Hears in his sleepy chair
That Chantelle had oral sex
With her step brother's sister and fears
She has throat cancer,
By way of some weird Essex voodoo.
And surround sound
Wide screen TV
Whilst William paints pictures
Of India in his mind;
Of school teaching days
And barefoot babies,
Of polite and courteous conversation
And the endless years of marvelling
At his luck at successfully wooing sweet Bella to be his wife.
That sometimes he can smell
Ripening fields of saffron blooming under a hot orange moon
And hear the noisy night time yell of
A blue-winged parakeet.
But today is a day that leaves cobwebs in dark
And Alice cries the hours past,
And wonders why she is here.
There is no hauling her into Dettol'd happiness
No sing-song merriment or velcro dart to anaesthetise.
Alice and William do not speak
Tho' they are bound together by aching disinfected memories,
Sipping their tea in silence.
They have shared this breakfast room for three years
But they never speak.