For Mum:

My husband’s fleece wraps around me,
Like an enormous hug.
It smells of him, it smells of love
But the sleeves are not made
Like a woman’s would be, there’s just no give!
My wrists, so often in the sink, are bound
With cold wet fabric that chafes my skin.
I turn and roll them but the cloth clings tight
I pull them up, with all my might       but
They refuse to stay put and
Slide back down, into the greasy dirt.
His sleeves, only know days filled with office banter
Across computer monitors and desk jet printers.
Days that mercifully end at five o’clock, when he
Comes home and puts his feet up.
My wardrobe was once full, of clothes like this, with
Tight buttoned cuffs that caressed my skin
But even then, on holidays and weekends,
I’d roll the sleeves up on my mother’s cardigans
To scrub the floors and bleach the bins as,
I waited for one washing cycle to end so
Another could begin.
Mum was married on promises, pregnant
With dreams that were hard to resist
For a girl, the shy side of nineteen
I can still see her in the kitchen where,
She always lived; cooking, cleaning, and ironing
Dad’s stolid blue, Air Force shirts
How I remember the violence of the wet cloth
As it hissed and steamed, the collars and cuffs,
Stiff with starch and abandoned dreams.
Sometimes, on still evenings, when the dying sun splashes
Through the bedroom curtains, I can almost see her heart
Still beating on the sleeves she left,
And smell the scented perfume, she loved so much.
It’s then, in these precious moments,
I feel her gentle touch upon my shoulder;
As she whispers, “take care, my love.”
Right now, I wish that she was alive to see,
Her youngest daughter, writing poetry,
At her own desk, amid the chaos and the mess
Wearing her husband’s non-iron fleece.

Mary Jane (Macdonald) Young: 18th December 1940 – 3rd November, 1999