A Game of Cards
He’s sitting in his armchair beside the fire
and the still-life that hangs above the mantelpiece:
skin peels in a continuous curl from a clementine,
a square of light is reflected on the rim
of an empty goblet. In his crimson gown
and leather slippers he grumbles at cards
fanned in thick fingers, while Grandma fusses
with milky tea and paste sandwiches in the kitchen,
leaves them at the hatch to carry through.
He lays down his hand to tamp the bowl
and strike a match, curses when the flint
won’t light, then says he knows why we’ve come:
Tell them I won’t die before
Friday… he mutters
as the flame flares. I lift a card from the top
of the pile, and chewing a sandwich he shuffles
to the window to show me the city glittering
beneath us as lamps go on and off, traffic
lights up rain. Tobacco burns as his breath threads
the room, artificial coals glow orange and red.
If you have any comments on this poem, Tess Jolly would be
pleased to hear from you.