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.
If you would like to comment on this poem, Claire Askew would be pleased
to hear from you.