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Council House Memories

A constant odor of boiled cabbage and duties remaining

casts shadows of a woman heavy with child

hand pressed to flat of back, across already

gleaming pseudo Italian ceramic floor tiles, which


Hair pushed back, perspiring, she’d mop, often

more than daily, slopping bucket pushed along with

slippered foot, then stooping into a well practiced groan

she’d swab up fake marble stairs on hands and knees


Shooing him with an “I don’t like you hanging around

the house”, she’d clear away his almost completed

breakfast, fold away his newspaper snapping “Go out

and work” or “The garden needs weeding – tidiness

is next to ungodliness”


Sitting in the bar, his midday glass of brandy chased

with foaming lager, he’d tell no one in particular

of his plan to leave her, rent an apartment in some

seaside village, then comforted and hungry for his

brisket and veg he’d weave his way back home for lunch


Afternoons the house was silent, children weren’t

allowed to pass their bedroom door except on tiptoe

shoes removed and barely daring to breathe, then

a little after two, a bellow ending on a question

mark that we carried into later psychotherapies


Hours later came a thick-tongued roar, “Woman

bring me my tea”, but by that time we mostly were

well out of earshot, playing ball under the trees or

scooting down the lane, their admonition not to yell

or curse ringing in our ears “Behave nicely, what

will the neighbours think”

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© Johnmichael Simon



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