Ask me, I've seen everything -
I've changed the blown-out lightbulbs
of ghosts, emptied the ashtrays
of the dead.  I've rifled through drawers,
funeral party in the other room -
collected enough pin numbers
to pay off a mortgage.  I've found

the stashes of secret porn, stuffed
in envelopes with a lock of baby's hair -
the daily train tickets, each one saved
for sixty years.  I know the thrill
of  a bankroll under a deathbed mattress,
the smell of old lace and gin
and the underwear of grandmothers.

I know to shake out each book, raise dust,
find the pressed-flower keepsakes,
the erotic epistles of old.  I know that if
an old drawer sticks, something incendiary
is taped underneath - treasure maps,
wraps of coke, the birth-certificate
of a bastard son, a bomb plot.

They are so keen to cut and run, to cremate -
to make a sepulchre of these dust-sheeted homes.  
All the shiny things go, tucked into pockets;
they squabble like magpies for cut glass and tin.
I know their secrets, their dynamite
and their dead, and don't care.  I am
a cat-burglar, with my copied keys; clearing.

Claire Askew

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