Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to support@standmagazine.org

This poem is taken from Stand 225, 18(1) March - May 2020.

Maggie Freeman Two Poems
Visit

When I’ve driven there in the dark
and the pouring rain
all that way, he says, when I’ve
found a parking space at last
and forked out the earth for it
I walk along the long corridors
upstairs I discover her bed in the ward
empty, clean sheets flat on it
then at last having located a nurse
I ascertain she’s been moved
my wife’s been moved and no one’s told me
what have they done with her?

Back along the corridor
take the lift to the third floor
says the nurse, and he pushes the door
open
how can one identify one person
the person one loves
in that assemblage of old women in beds
a lifetime they’ve spent together
loving and married at twenty
registry office, flowers in her hair
caviar in a posh hotel
come to this anonymity
Oh her, says a nurse, she was creating
in the night and he’s certain
she’s started the screaming again
we put her in here
and there she is in a separate room
with her lank hair
and peach nightgown
paper-thin, having eaten nothing
in six weeks, resolute
as a sheet of steel as she screams
go away, go away
I don’t want you here
(only his last twenty years
he’s given up to care for her)
go away
I want to die, you
are preventing me from dying –
and he doesn’t know
if it’s her or her depression talking
how can one identify
which voice is hers and which
is the pain her body’s in and
which is her mind slipped
which the faulty chemistry of her kidneys –
no one knows –

He’s telling this story on the phone
and I’m recollecting my father’s wake
the rum and calypso in the dark
and the burly guy who’d worked for him on the land
who told me, your stepmother
loved your father too much
she should have let him go
a long time ago.


Making marmalade

She sharpens the knife, and when he has gone
to join the others sleep-walking
the overcast street to the station
she turns back to the silent
isolation of the kitchen
and stoops to lift
from the dark pantry
the blue cardboard box
she bought yesterday.
She sets it on the table.
Through its ventilation holes
she can see the round globes
of the oranges
bright spherical worlds
whose mantles glow
with sunshine swallowed
in the orchards of Seville.
Open the box –
they scatter like planets around her.
Each one she seizes
she slices in half
with the sharp knife.

Juice oozes
from the clock face
of cut segments
it gleams in tear-shaped pearls
she squeezes in a bowl.
She shreds the skin
cutting down, down, down
the acid puckering the skin
on her fingers till they are wrinkled
as her mother’s, and her grandmother’s
and great-grandmother’s before her
a legacy of love
a ritual transformation
of bitter fruit into a sweet preserve.

Fruit and juice bubble with sugar
in a great pan on the cooker.
Steam rises, it mists mirrors
slips upstairs, filters
through closed doors till every room
in the whole house is rich
and redolent of the scent of
bubbling marmalade
which when she tests
on a cold plate
drawing her fingernail across
wrinkles, showing
it’s ready.
By the window she ladles it
into heated glass jars
on a tray.
Sunlight shines in the tawny glow
of sweet tigers
striped with cooked peel.

She spoons the residue
from the pan to her mouth
wishes it were possible
to create perfect sweetness
with no residue of bitterness.

This poem is taken from Stand 225, 18(1) March - May 2020.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this poem to support@standmagazine.org
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