Taxidermy

They come to dine in view of each other, sip wines

that roll off the English tongue like recent holidays.

A place with just the right balance of familiarity &


unfamiliarity: ceilings of black keys that have never

seen locks; the stuffed heads of game with dark

planets for eyes; the bright stirrups & bridles

hanging from warm stone walls beside a fire; the


shift of staff in matching shirts tapping the

glowing faces of tills, talking in the lull of

uni or the future or the video that went viral

an hour ago. Where do we go from here I wonder


sat by a woman who’s known me all my life,

whom I still don’t know, over whose face there’s a clouding,

a beginning to giving up, like a line to some

exhausting race was crossed before the finish &

the finish is all there is to come. It scares her

in ways no amount of years will ever prepare us for.

My gaze passes from Nan’s deliberate smile


to my nine-year-old sister, a touch of mum’s make-up,

& I’ve tucked myself in between life & death. This

our rustic table with its hard grain rubbed smooth

is where they come to demonstrate their influence.


We’ll have to walk with Nan through the far door

– slowly, slowly –


as some of the young & the middle-aged look on,

so safe from this they smile politely, carrying on

with their conversation,

their coq au vin,

their sauvignon.