Alison Brackenbury

Need, need, need. The soft grey stones
Were laid in gates for carriageways.
This western town needs silly money,
Weightless frocks for summer time.
By shabby doors the stones have sunk.
Dodging new puddles from my road
I see the low sky ripe with cloud.

Where I grew, there lived a woman
Who taught in Chapel Sunday School.
She and the preacher had ‘affairs’.
Her long gaunt face passed by me while
We sat around our work’s long tables
Slipping forms in envelopes.
The women in their sky-blue clothes
Talked of children, chimed in jokes.
One spoke of the East Coast. I said
Half a sentence of the flood –
This was checked, gently, as too dark.

In storms in nineteen fifty-three,
Some months from my birth, the sea
Rushed down small streets at dykes and farms;
It drank her baby from her arms.
Ten years on, with two sons, still
She would cry at the slightest thing.
The neighbours sighed, then only half
Censured flight from heavy preaching.
Grace was her name. Town roars; I tread
Pavement as bare, as smooth as palms.
Her dark eyes close. Where traffic ebbs
She leaves her light weight in my arms.