THE FROGMORE POETRY PRIZE 2015

Frances Corkey Thompson

AFTERNOON TEA WITH MRS CLARKE

My grandmother, who knew Greek ancient and modern,
was invited to take tea with Mrs Clarke
of the Clarkes who owned the Upperlands Shirt Factory
which employed, as cutters and machine operators,
women from the Derry countryside, including
Mary Heaney, aunt to a brood,

                      one of whom, Seamus,
was turning out a bookish boy.
Here is the child in the lane, ear cocked
for echoes and silences. A woman bustles along
shedding hair-pins out of a halo of frizz.
Maybe the country boy touches a forelock, maybe not.
Maybe they do not see each other at all –
she’s a rook flapping through,
he’s as common as the grass.

But imagine they talk. Imagine she shows him
a book of the wine-dark seas of her own childhood
and he’s hooked. Imagine he shares with her
some old secrets of her newly-adopted lanes –

an offer which never happened and never could
though they were only a wavelength apart,
the one about to launch his own waves on the world,
the other hugging hers forever inward, hurrying
to take tea with Mrs Clarke.


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