Two poems

by Mary Paterson

An Equation

There are 24 hours in the day 60 minutes in each hour
You may be cared for in timed slots of thirty minutes or more
You may be cared for by Alma/ Bonnie/ Leslie/ Mohammed/ Mohammed/ Mo/Moses
Sarah/ Shamita/ Shazia/ William/ Wilma
S/he will have a key
S/he will phone the office on arrival
Before s/he has said hello
Before s/he has taken her/ his coat off
Before s/he has taken her/ his shoes off
Before s/he has told you her/ his name
You may not have met her/ him before
You may not remember the face
So close to yours
And the calloused hands
Taking the phone from your lap
The cost is £18.50 per thirty minutes not including VAT
The cost is £22.50 per thirty minutes on evenings and weekends, including bank holidays
Not including VAT
Not including travel which s/he must pay from her/ his net wages
One day s/he may arrive in your home, crying
S/he will phone the office on arrival
S/he will have incurred a parking ticket
S/he will not be able to pay
You may offer to pay
The cost is £60 for the first twenty eight days
Rising to £90 if you are not able to pay
S/he may not solicit you for money
Soliciting you for money is an act of gross misconduct
Families can relax in the knowledge that their loved ones
Are in excellent hands, being cared for with dignity and respect.

2.30  on a Tuesday

No doubt you are worried
He says, suit starched
Jacket open, shirt sleeves kissing with cufflinks
in the style of a chess board
He is difficult
To buy for

No doubt you are worried
And it’s true
we are worried
No doubt no doubt about that

No doubt you are worried about inheritance tax
He speaks
With such assurance
So we are silent
For a while, thinking
Assets pensions capital
He writes with hairy fingers
A wedding ring carves something obscene
Into his flesh. They were teachers I say,

I forgot to offer you a coffee, I say.
And anyway –

(One percent of the investment total
Reviewed every year
During visits
He is so kind to make
No really
It’s no trouble
To your lovely home.)

And anyway –

We don’t have any milk
We don’t have any biscuits
We don’t have any coffee
We don’t know what has happened to the mugs
We don’t choose to look inside the cupboards
The cupboards are unruly
We are worried
The unruly cupboards
What they mean
How their tendrils might unfold
So green, so strong
So strangle us by the kettle.

So the windows steam up with
Our last words:

We are not
worried about inheritance tax.

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