by Lisa Reily
Of all the things in my mother’s home,
I took foil in a huge carton
and her binoculars.
I understand the foil; I simply could not throw
the weighty, useful roll into the garbage.
Our new home, a small cabin,
could not take her ornaments,
her clothes, the numerous perfumes
or soft teddy bears on her dresser.
But her binoculars sat by the phone
in their old vinyl zip-up case;
I think mum bought them for herself
when she started betting on the dogs.
I can’t say I remember her using them;
the lorikeets came to feed, so we saw them up close.
Kookaburras and magpies, too.
Alone in her house, for the final time,
and her binoculars came with me.
Maybe it’s your recent birdwatching.
The hours you’ve spent rummaging
through bird identification books,
noticing every bird and animal
you’ve seen in the bush by our home.
Now we’ve left everything behind,
mum’s binoculars have travelled with us,
everywhere; perhaps I knew
we could squash them into our suitcases,
long before we planned to leave.
Shells crushed pink on muddy sand,
tiny scribbles of life left by crabs,
the tide so far out that we cannot walk there;
they say it’s the furthest in the UK.
Donkeys carry school children across the empty beach;
otherwise, their days are spent waiting.
We stroll the seafront promenade
amid the grey-haired traffic of Weston-super-Mare,
a working day where everyone is working,
or retired, their pensions bequeathed to cream teas
and watery cappuccinos by the seaside.
Malt vinegar suffuses the air:
hot chips served at the Victorian Café & Takeaway.
You find a table inside, order breakfast to share,
eat all the vegetarian, leaving me two pork sausages
and a mass of fleshy bacon;
you pepper everything heavily, crunch into fried bread,
big brown mushrooms, and toast.
I try every condiment—tomato sauce, brown, hot English mustard,
malted vinegar—then your tinned tomatoes.
We share a cappuccino in a huge mug,
keep the ticket for the refill,
refuse the plastic spoon,
stir with the end of a metal fork instead,
order the refill—even though we’re bursting.
Back in our hotel room, from our second-floor window,
the huge, slow Ferris wheel is silent,
roller coaster empty,
the pay-to-enter Grand Pier (only entered once you have paid in full, like life);
gulls and crows wander, side-by-side on the sand,
waiting for morsels of fish from the one table occupied.
Across the sea, Flat Holm Island, Wales in the distance,
and on the street below
people, young and old,
with walking sticks and wheelchairs;
I am glad we quit life early, to really live,
to sip watery cappuccinos,
twenty years before the world told us we could.