After she died, we spent three days cleaning -
raising dust in the poky council bungalow,
grass hissing outside, high as the windows.
It was a time-capsule, this house
where a young woman had grown up, grown old;
had dreamed, dressed, undressed, loved.
The torn-up stockings of yesteryear became dusters
and dishcloths; we washed out the bath silently,
the cotton aprons of marriage strung around our necks.
They'd already hauled the sofa away when you came.
Its absence stung you, as you stacked boxes
fizzing with newspaper, in the space where it stood.
Strange, I thought, the things men sentimentalise.
You did not take the wedding ring - once warmed daily
by her lined palm - though she'd have wanted you to;
or the scent-bottle she kept her childhood wishes in.
Instead, you rattled home, hugging
her convector heater, trailing flex - and coveted
the contents of the coal-house, the key-rack.
The tiny paperweight was your only concession -
one glass tear, an ancient egg in the nest of your hand.
If you would like to comment on this poem, Claire Askew would be pleased
to hear from you.